Essays On Othering

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The possession of whiteness makes belonging possible, and to lack that possession is not to belong, to be defined as something lesser, even something not fully human.

Neither possession nor lack is natural or biological.

Stowe presents a slave’s cabin through dulcet description that Morrison calls “outrageously inviting,” “cultivated,” “seductive,” and “excessive.” Here, a white child can enter black space without fear of the dark, the very sweetness of the language reinforcing the Otherness of places where black people live.

Othering is expressed through codes of belonging as well as difference.

On the train to the city, a prosperous black man passes by. Head’s questioning, “a fat man…an old man.” These are wrong answers. Blackness remains the great challenge to writers of fiction on all sides of the color line, for the central role of race in American Othering affects us all, white and nonwhite, black and nonblack, not just writers who are white.

Morrison describes her own struggles with color codes in her work, notably in her novels(1983).

She accused scholars of “lobotomizing” literary history and criticism in order to free them of black presence.

Broadening our conception of American literature beyond the cast of lily-white men would not simply benefit nonwhite readers.

Opening up would serve the interests of American mental as well as intellectual health, since the white racial ideology that purged literature of blackness was, Morrison said, “savage.” She called the very concept of whiteness “an inhuman idea.”, Morrison extends and sharpens these themes as she traces through American literature patterns of thought and behavior that subtly code who belongs and who doesn’t, who is accepted in and who is cast out as “Other.” She has previously written of how modernist novelists like William Faulkner (who saw race) and Ernest Hemingway (who did not) respected the codes of Jim Crow by dehumanizing black figures or ignoring the connotations of blackness in their nonblack figures.

But the process of exiling some people from humanity, she observes here, also ranges beyond American habits of race: One need only look at the treatment of millions now in flight from war and economic desperation.


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