How Do Classic American Novels Use Black People?

Toni Morrison
Emeka Ochiagha
May 21, 2021

Toni Morrison is one of the greatest American writers of all time. It makes her the perfect warrior to uncover the sinister tricks that white authors make when writing Black characters. Morrison’s given us the truth about the white supremacist agenda they themselves aren’t even always aware of.

She discovered that a lot of current Black stereotypes came from classic American novels – the same novels frequently taught to our children. White people wanted to craft narratives that presented themselves as all things good. The easiest way to do so? They made us their opposite, and projected onto our image all things bad.

Why do white people hate being called white? Through their books and other media, they rarely mention the whiteness of a character – they want whiteness to be normalized, non-racial, the default. This makes it easier to “racialize” other people – and make race Black people’s problem.

Morrison also saw that white authors wanted to maintain the purity of the “American Dream” – despite it requiring slavery, genocide, and colonization. But those realities only were an issue for the non-white characters in white novels. In the white imagination, the “American dream” was a God-sent reward for themselves alone.

This is why taking control of Black education is so important – the novels we read affect our imagination, and our imagination crafts the world around us!

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