Racism and Fascism

Article excerpt

Racism and Fascism

Toni Morrison, Department of Creative Writing, Princeton University*

In this address, given at Howard University during its 1995 Charter Day celebrations, Morrison spoke eloquently about the origins and social significance of Howard and other historically Black institutions of higher learning, about the education and miseducation of African Americans, and about the aberrant societal tensions wrought by racism and fascism. In this excerpt, she describes the persistent fallacies that emerge when racial and gender issues connect and intersect, and discusses the tendency of some to focus on a narrow sector rather than the full range of human abilities to differentiate, and most often disparage, members of minority and underrepresented groups.

. . . Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another. Something, perhaps, like this: (1) Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion. (2) Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy. (3) Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works. (4) Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification. (5) Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy. (6) Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process. (7) Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology. (8) Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy--especially its males and absolutely its children. (9) Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions, a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press, a little pseudo-success, the illusion of power and influence, a little fun, a little style, a little consequence. (10) Maintain, at all costs, silence.

In 1995 racism may wear a new dress, buy a new pair of boots, but neither it nor its succubus twin fascism is new or can make anything new. …