Thoughts on Toni Morrison’s Passing

Toni Morrison resides at the pinnacle of the arts and literature. There have been few people more capable of seeing the human condition with such clarity. Her characters live and breathe. She saw us. She saw into the dark corners of our history. It is worth remembering in this dark times, her peacefully passing from this world after a long life well lived right in the middle of multiple mass murders by vile racists, spurred on by the vile racist-in-chief. There is always someone who will try to crush your spirit. It is too easy to say “don’t let them.” We all have our breaking points. To be torn away from your family in a place you came to to seek asylum from the grave danger you faced at home, and be put into a cage without so much as a blanket or a toothbrush would be beyond the breaking point of most people. We need writers and artists who will bear witness to injustice and the resilient human spirit. We need them to give us language to understand what is happening and to imagine other possibilities. We need images to help us to see and understand the world and to relieve our grief with beauty. We need music to bring us together in anger, grief, or moments of joy. My good friend David Hyman, English Professor, said:
“When anyone asks me to justify the value of teaching literature in today’s world, ‘to make sure that Toni Morrison is read and discussed’ is as good an answer as I have.” I could not agree more. Artist are witnesses, and they help the rest of us to see, understand, remember, and make connections. Rest in peace and power.

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