Teasing you to re-think your stereotypes


Who is Twyla and who is Roberta? Your guess is still only an assumption, that Morrison has pulled you into to making to expose your stereotypes.

Toni Morrison’s only short story, Recitatif, invites you to guess the race of the two main characters, Twyla and Roberta, because Morrison carefully avoids stating it.

I always ask my U.S. Lit students at my Christian school in Santa Monica who is black and who is white. Results are always divided. Then my students begin to argue and pick out pieces of evidence from the story. This is a useful learning dynamic because it forces students to think, to use evidence to support their conjecture, but ultimately it is futile. Morrison’s genius is such that, being a African American writer, she writes about race with grace and gentleness.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

The story is completely void of bitterness. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even accept the conventional wisdom about racism. Both girls (all we ever learn conclusively is that one is white and the other is black, and your best guess is only conjecture) attack a mute, bow-legged “tan”-colored cook at St. Bonaventure’s, where they are housed as quasi-orphans. The picture of racism is simple: there is an almost irresistible urge in all mankind to hurt the powerless.

It is a haunting picture. It is a picture of sin. Left unchecked, sin will drive us to evil. Nobody escapes its clutches alone.

Morrison invites us to reflect about racism. It is nothing innate to whites or to blacks. In fact, it has very little to do with skin color. It has to do with the wicked, very human, innate heart condition to flaunt power over another. And in exercising that power, we humans harm.

Wow, this story explains much more than just racism! It explains why there is war.

But it comes up short in terms of finding a solution. In fact, the ending can seem anti-climatic. Roberta agonizes over the memory. She cannot fix for certain whether she and Twyla actually kicked the cook or did they just want to do it in their hearts.

Photo source: I don’t own the rights to the picture, and I’m not making any money on it.

5 responses to “Teasing you to re-think your stereotypes

  1. Reblogged this on Where Madness & Truth Collide. and commented:
    Truth! 🙂

  2. Interesting exercise in literary creativity, but the solution is only and always found in Jesus Christ.

  3. God’s Image is seen in ALL His Creation yet some people do not believe God makes of all flesh from HIS same stock. God’s variety design includes ‘blacks,’ ‘whites’ directly from God. Blacks and whites are from same family DNA melanin pigmentation creates variety albinos. In God’s Eyes all His Creation are Very Good. It is the devil that causes hatred and fear to make people treat others badly globally.

    So each child must be taught the fear of God and respect for fellow human beings because Christians see God in all people. In Jeremiah 32:27, God said, I am the LORD GOD Jehovah the God of all flesh is there anything too hard for me? In Genesis 16:13, God spoke to Hagar, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, I have seen God who sees me. God provided for Ishmael so God was with the son of Hagar in Genesis 21:20. God’s creation is very highly honoured and valued. Institutional and structural racism abuses due to fear so plays divide and rule games to conquer both.

    God’s Theocracy, was replaced causing chaos confusion and fights because each wants to be in control in God’s place to rule. God is changing the world rapidly to take charge again. God speaks to all, “Be strong and of good courage to hear the words of God. Teach knowledge of the Most High, Almighty is All around as Testimony of God’s Presence. God of all flesh’s handiworks is written all over creation’s body, spirit, flesh made boy with natural beautiful blue eyes in this picture not contact lenses in Africa.

    God messages to is each heart rejoice and tongues be glad; Moreover all flesh rest in hope in Acts 2:25-28. Set the LORD always before us at our right hands not to be moved into racist behaviour. To show us path of life; in God’s presence is fullness of joy; at God’s Right Hand are pleasures forever more in Psalms 16:8, 11. God, shows great mercy and wisdom in God’s blessings. So the world must turn to God for forgiveness of racism for good personal interaction with all His people.

    See full post on: https://godshotspot.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/god-of-all-flesh-and-spirit/ An article called God made all people.

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