Toni Morrison: In Defense Of Life

  • Q-This leads to the problem of the depressingly large number of single-parent households and the crisis in unwed teenage pregnancies. Do you see a way out of that set of worsening circumstances and statistics?
  • A-Well, neither of those things seems to me a debility. I don’t think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It’s perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man. Two parents can’t raise a child any more than one. You need a whole community-everybody-to raise a child. The notion that the head is the one who brings in the most money is a patriarchal notion, that a woman-and I have raised two children, alone-is somehow lesser than a male head. Or that I am incomplete without the male. This is not true. And the little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for white people or for black people. Why we are hanging onto it, I don’t know. It isolates people into little units-people need a larger unit.
  • Q-and teenage pregnancies? 
  • A- Everybody’s grandmother was a teenager when they got pregnant. Whether they were 15 or 16, they ran a house, a farm, they went to work, they raised their children.
  • Q-But everybody’s grandmother didn’t have the potential for living a different kind of life. These teenagers-16, 15-haven’t had time to find out if they have special abilities, talents. They’re babies having babies.
  • A-The child’s not going to hurt them. Of course, it is absolutely time consuming. But who cares about the schedule? What is this business that you have to finish school at 18? They’re not babies. We have decided that puberty extends to what-30? When do people stop being kids? The body is ready to have babies, that’s why they are in a passion to do it. Nature wants it done then, when the body can handle it, not after 40, when the income can handle it.
  • Q-You don’t feel that these girls will never know whether they could have been teachers, or whatever?
  • A-They can be teachers. They can be brain surgeons. We have to help them become brain surgeons. That’s my job. I want to take them all in my arms and say, ‘You baby is beautiful and so are you and, honey, you can do it. And when you want to be a brain surgeon, cal me-I will take care of you baby.’ That’s the attitude you have to have about human life. But we don’t want to pay for it. I don’t think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they’re black-or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That’s what we’re upset about. We don’t care whether they have babies or not.
  • Q-How do you break the cycle of poverty? You can’t just hand out money
  • A-Why not? Everybody gets everything handed to them. The rich get it handed-they inherit it. I don’t mean just inheritance of money. I mean what people take for granted among the middle and upper classes, which is nepotism, the old-boy network. That’s shared bounty of class.

White Mob Violence Is Alive and Thriving

In Nelson Peery’s Black Radical, Peery details his life fighting for the liberation of working-class people world wide. Peery who fought in a segregated Black infantry division in WW2, details the horrific violence and death  that returning WW2 black veterans were met with at the hand of white mobs. Between June 1945 and September 1946, not a week went by without a lynching or other mob violence. During this time 56 Black veterans were lynched by white mobs.

This is one improvement, I thought. There are not mobs of regular-joe white people just up and offing black people for fun.

George William’s story, recently published in the New York Times, jarred me into consciousness of the reality that hundreds of thousands of men and women live and die everyday in America’s prisons. The angry white mobs I had imagined gone were actually employed in America’s prisons where they terrorize,beat and murder Black and Brown people legally and with impunity.

PEOPLE. Because “inmate” “convict” prisoner” “criminal”  normalize and justify the immoral imprisonment, torture and murder of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters.

George Williams was arrested for robbing a jewelry store. Slave wages and pervasive unemployment makes such action necessary for survival. He was sentenced to 2-4 years in a Maximum Security Prison. An outrageous repercussion when the wealthy white men who caused and benefited from the 2008 financial crash that harmed billions of people are free to lounge in their 3rd vacation homes.

George Williams was keeping to himself in his cell at Attica Correctional Facility when four white guards ordered him to strip for a search. Under the false pretenses of a drug test they took him to another room and  beat him until he couldn’t walk. At one point they invited other guards to join in the fun. Up to 12 other white guards were witnessed. White Mob Violence.

With no rights that this land of democracy is bound to respect, men, women and children behind bars suffer brutal state sanctioned violence at the hands of guards everyday.

George Williams was left with horrific injuries that included a broken shoulder, two broken legs, multiple cracked ribs, broken eye socket, huge amount of blood lodged in his maxillary sinus, and cuts and bruises all over his body.

He was so close to death the prison infirmary didn’t admit him and ordered him  to an outside hospital. The first hospital also turned him away because his injuries were too severe for them to treat.

That night the necessity of liberation for Black and Brown people agitated my mind and kept sleep at bay. I was overwhelmed by the necessity of action because our existence depends on it.

From the cells of Attica and Rikers and Guantanamo, to the mines of South Africa, to Ethiopia, to Pine Ridge, to Zimbabwe, to Gaza, to Haiti, to the Congo, to Myanmar, to Nicaragua, to Eritrea, to Mexico, to Ferguson, to Iraq, to Peru, to Guatemala, to China, to Afghanistan, to Vietnam, to India, to Somalia, we are struggling for survival. Our existence–our safe healthy happy existence–makes taking action a necessity.

To the white people who have acquired the children of Black and Brown people thru adoption: Why don’t you feel this necessity that we do?  How can you claim to love Black children without loving Black humanity? How can you claim love while refusing to acknowledging the role you hold in our oppression with your active indifference?  How can you claim to love the Black and Brown children in your care without taking action to eradicate the white-supremacist+misogynist+capitalist system that is detrimental to their safe healthy and happy existence?

As for George Williams, he suffers a leg that is constantly bothering him, headaches, sinus damage, and PTSD. He is plagued by nightmares.  “I still can’t sleep” he told the New York Times.

Teenage Mothers Are Not The Problem

There is this pervasive shaming and stigmatization of young parenthood disguised as “teen pregnancy prevention”. It is so normalized by the corporate media that many don’t question the depravity of shaming young parents and few find it disturbing. But it is so very disturbing. From MTV’s Teen Mom to the Candies Foundations and United Ways offensive and and misinformed “teen pregnancy prevention” ads.

What is the purpose of stigmatizing young parenthood and shaming young parents? What is the purpose of drilling into girls that the worst thing they can do is have a baby young?

So that when a teenage young woman gets pregnant she is so filled with feelings of failure and shame because she is sentencing her baby and herself to a horrible life that she contacts a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) who then confirm all her fears and add a few more before assigning her an adoption counselor who tells her what a brave selfless decision she is making as her stomach aches for her newborn and she ends up pumping milk for her child now in the care of strangers.

 

Recently, under it’s “Good News” section, Huffington Post ran a congratulatory story about a teenage mother who pumped gallons and gallons of milk for her baby who was being raised by strangers. It is curious that this is the image of teenage mothers that the corporate media portrays positively: a young mother pumping milk for her baby that she is aching for.

What is the message that this sends? That teen mothers are only acceptable are only worthy of praise when they are doing the “best” for their babies and allowing them to have “adult” parents.

There are never news stories about teen mothers lovingly caring for their children even though this is the honest reflection of the vast majority of young mothers.

“Teen pregnancy prevention” papers over the real problems that make life a challenge for families young and old. Capitalism+White-Supremacy+Misogyny. The huge intertwined ball of systemic oppression whose existence is a constant attack on working-class families of color all over the globe.

How about fighting for rent control so that teen mothers have access to truly affordable housing?

How about fighting for a real living wage so that teen mothers don’t have to work two jobs to care for their children?

How about fighting to end the gender pay gap that has women of color earning less than white men, white women, and men of color?

How about fighting to provide a real safety net for women with abusive partners so they can leave the relationship without making themselves and their children more vulnerable?

How about dismantling the white supremacist classist educational system that suspends and expels working-class children of color at outrageous rates starting in preschool.

How about dismantling the school to prison pipeline that targets working-class children of color for consumption.

How about dismantling the prison industrial complex that profits from tearing Black and Brown families apart.

How about working to create a world that is hospitable to young families…to all families.


A child is not the problem. A young mother is not the problem. A young family is not the problem.