Lurking Fascism: Toni Morrison Warns Of

By Morgan, Joan | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 23, 1995 | Go to article overview

Lurking Fascism: Toni Morrison Warns Of


Morgan, Joan, Black Issues in Higher Education


Lurking Fascism: Toni Morrison Warns of.

by Joan Morgan

WASHINGTON, DC -- Toni Morrison brushed aside the "good ol' days" while accepting an honorary doctorate recently from her alma mater, Howard University, and, instead, tore into presentday. American political machinations that trouble her soul.

Morrison evoked a somberness of spirit as she spoke in a tone that was soft, yet dramatic.

"Forgive me if I'm not recalling only the sweetness and beauty and congeniality of having been here. Some of my best memories are of Howard as a student and instructor. It was here that I started to write...and wrote my first book. I have profound and exciting memories."

A pause. And then Morrison softly lashed out. The 1993 Noble Prize winner said that certain political doctrines being espoused today are the same racial-superiority-inspired stratagems of yester-year being recycled in a new package. She recalled the role Howard University had played during the 19th century in battling identical theories, ideas and notions of superiority then also prevalent in the land.

"Howard entered the world in an interventionist mode. It conquered with a vengeance the prevailing 19th-century notion that education was not part of the future of African Americans.

"The prevailing notion was that if higher education were to become available on a large scale, it would be a complete [loss], because the higher plateaus of achievement were closed. Evidence is to the contrary...and we own Howard University a great deal in terms of countering that."

As she continued chronicling Howard's contributions through its 128 years, she said, "Howard was a leader in the early civil rights movement, and I am proud to have benefitted from that tradition."

Grim Scenario Depicted

A scenario that parallels what is happening today is not fiction "as my novels," she said. Morrison then launched into the real-life example of the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany. The final solution, she said, came after a step-by-step pathologizing and recycling of the myth of racial superiority in order to neutralize and criminalize the perceived "enemy." This led, in turn, said Morrison, to preparing, budgeting and rationalizing the building of "holding arenas" especially for the males and "absolutely" for the children. …

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