The Oprah Winfrey Show: Toni Morrison
Today's episode is supported by the alliance for lifetime. Income annuities can offer a safeguard of protected monthly income for the rest of your life and provide security and peace of mind in retirement. The alliance for lifetime income is an organization dedicated to educating and raising awareness about how annuities consult retirement income needs because in complaining that includes protected monthly income solutions helps ensure. You'll never outlive your money in retirement. Find out if making annuities a vital component of your portfolio is the right choice voice for you. Learn more at retire your risk dot org. Today's episode is supported by state farm. State farm believes in strengthening communities with a challenge to allstate former employees and agents to give back with one hundred acts of good. The x. can be as small as giving a hug to a friend in need or as big as saving a beached whale. Well no matter how big or small the act it all counts towards a better community see how state farm employees are doing good at neighborhood of good dot com <music>. I'm oprah winfrey. Welcome to super soul conversations the podcast. I believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now. Hello everyone earlier this week. We lost another legend author toni morrison when she passed away at eighty eight years old she was the first african american woman to win the nobel prize for literature. She influenced countless writers. There's and readers around the world. She was a master of words and had a profound impact on me. I was proud to choose four of her novels for my book club and interviewed her on the oprah show many times. We have an encore presentation of our interview about her very first book the bluest i it was after the show that i heard from women around the world who told me how color ism just like that depicted in the bluest eye impacted them people of color in many different cultures. It was during this show when tony gave one of the greatest lessons that i've loved to share she talked about children and how what children are really looking for is do your eyes light up your face light up when they enter the room. It's really that simple and the ultimate way validate them as human beings. I carry that lesson inside my spirit along with toni's remarkable gorgeous epoch works. Here's a look back and my interview with tony morrison and the bluest eye the world will miss her. I will miss her but thankfully we are left with. Her words. What you're going to hear is both powerful and wonderful and unforgettable book each night without fail. She prayed for bill is an unforgettable show. I remember spending months pressing housing on my skin just hoping that it would turn white and unforgettable author. He called wants blue eyes because in her world they represent beauty and and unforgettable insights when a kid walks in the room. Does your face light. Let your face speak what's in your heart our most profound book club show ever mm-hmm well. I love all the books we've done in the club. Obviously i have to read them and then shoes them. Some people love a lot of them. Some people don't but the bluest eye this month's election is so special to me. It is one of my all time favorites and i'll tell you why hi at the heart of the bluest eye is twelve europa cola breedlove who thought that she was so ugly. Nobody would possibly love her and regardless of what color you are there. There are a lot of women who have defined themselves by what other people think of them over the course of the last month we've been flooded with letters and emails from all races and cultures sometimes over two hundred responses a day all because of this one little girl. I'm so so pleased that all of you all races and cultures there's related to her. This one little girl who was dismissed as unlovable has touched your heart and mine so for me. The beauty of this book is that cola cola and all the colours of the world have finally gotten our day. The message in the bluest eye is so universal that i really believe we all all could learn from it and no matter where you live or who you are. We're going to begin now with an explanation of one of my favorite books of all time the bluest eye from the author herself off listen as tony morrison tells how even the youngest and most innocent could grow up and learn to hate who she is. Here's the house is green white. It has the red door. It is very pretty. Here's the family they're very c._j. She has a red breath. She wanted to see the dog bow goes. The dog play play a primary the first reader in the first grade was it an example of devastation that comes the everybody is judged by one story where you have the family classic mother father dog child that impossible ideal for everyone this measure against this particular family that is the center of book pekala wants blue eyes because in her world their superior they represent beauty. It would make any difference if she were the most beautiful child around her skin is no one's going to look at her. It was important important for me to say at that time was writing the spoken to sixty five through to the end of nineteen sixty nine that racism awesome. That kind of abuse on children hurts deep and it is devastating. If you're going to enslave people you have to be persuaded yourself that they are inferior. You and you have to attack the things that they have that they might take some pleasure. In one language tone the can speak not matter what you're what you mean real and the other is their history and what is the way they look cartoons. Ising people images eventually so consistent so persistent you begin to feel inferior perio- lesser <hes> less powerful less attractive less everything because his very little around. Oh dude supports it. You cannot drink from those fountains. You cannot sit in this part of the restaurant or even enter etc everything reinforces assists and it's difficult for parents of black children to try to tell them they are wrong in your right so eventually the self content becomes a part of your makeup part of who you are and that has happened with many groups certain with african americans as well in the bluest. I i wanted to show a real devastation of this concept of self image minch thousands of you wrote in about how the bluest eye affected you. Many letters were from women who wrote in graphic detail bill about how they hated who they were all because of the way they looked here are some of the things you've said along with more thoughts on beauty from tony morrison each night without fail. She prayed for blue eyes fervently for year here she although somewhat discourage she was not have soured color contact to make my is lighter. A little boy told me that i was dirty and that's why i was black. You know how terrible it was which damage to one another ira spin in the bathroom washing hands and pressing on skin just hoping that it would turn white. I used to walk with my head down because i never thought i was the i i was astonished at who the readers of this book or white women and white girls as well as my already league rules not african american girls. Certainly i understand that feeling of wanting to look different so that people would like so the beautiful. I was scrawny. Hail little runt with jack lantern teeth and kind of fuzzy long long hair stand hips. That's altered competing so the twelve year old boy with a changed colds flu wise tori privilege to my hips that i always thought were way way too big. The hunger for blindness is still profound. The perfect family always seemed to have girls that look like the girls from reading. I was thinking of getting these blue eyes to match my whole new. Look while i finished that book and i said no diane. You can't do that when we played. Make believe one of the things we did was put our blue cartoons around our foreheads so we can have long flowing hair and be beautiful ladies with the find is <hes> not comfort but <hes> authenticity. Somebody knows what it was like god. That's so good at age fourteen. I remember wanting to commit suicide. That's something i do remember because of the way i look yes did her in. I try not to ask salat but if you could just put aside the bills or tonight to dinner for the next twenty minutes or so what what you're gonna hear is both powerful and wonderful especially. If you are a mother of any kind of child thousands of you who wrote an emailed us. Thank you so much your comments help to shape our show today. Even those that didn't get on even if you weren't chosen for the discussion before we we begin though meet the four women who sat down with us stephanie is a thirty four year old lawyer in beaumont texas diana's a guidance counselor who grew up in lorain ohio the setting of the bluest eye and also twenty more since hometown ruth is a mother of eight children including three african american girls that she adopted and julie is a single woman who works for a hotel chain in san francisco and as you'll see for yourself our conversations are never about just the book <hes> that's what a good book does is open open doors to other areas and nobody opens more doors than ms toni morrison so put down whatever you doing and listen you need to listen to this because this has some of the most important insight. I've i've heard about raising children well. I have this to say about the bluest. I remember when i announced it on the show. I was saying if you don't don't appreciate love this book. Then i'm really i have nothing to say to you and i just and i really do mean that i have to say i was in an airport not too long ago and i saw an entire row of bluest eyes like in like in a major airport and i'm telling you my eyes you start to water because i thought pa- cola has her day. How do you feel about. I know this is the first. Does it feel like your baby. A._b._c.'s finally come into. I'm surprised how deeply emotional i am about this book and the characters on on the one hand i still feel totally entangled emotionally vulnerable to them to the characters in the book and that's not good for rider more of our conversation in just a moment support for this episode comes from thomas english muffins. What does the perfect perfect morning consists of for you flipping through your favorite magazine before getting out of bed setting a new personal best on your morning run or maybe waking up on the beach to a beautiful sunrise more importantly. What kind of thomas english muffin breakfast would you have. Obviously it'd be perfectly toasted did with crispy edges and a soft warm center but would you choose the savory light multi grain option topped with butter or would you opt for a cinnamon raisin english often drizzled with honey or jam of course nothing beats the original nooks and crannies english muffin. Oh decisions decisions delicious decisions decisions thomas's wake up to what's possible as we saw that piece or you're talking about you know why you wrote the book and we see all the images and the the cartoons. I mean the first time i saw that piece. You know watching from jesse room. I was very emotional about it and asking myself is it you know some residue pain that i have or is it for all <music>. All those girls girl i once was for all those girls i think so because i had the same feeling. I thought why this cutting so deeply. Now i wrote the book i live the life i did this. Why hurt and i realized was my eyes. Were filling up. Whatever sure i was feeling it was also those girls what started you to write. It began to write this story extensively about an incident that took place ice when i was maybe eleven or twelve years old about this girl who said she wanted blue eyes in your class and and i all i remembered about the moment was looking at her suddenly and seeing how extraordinarily beautiful awful she was but when i looked at her imagined her with blue eyes suddenly the wish she looked made me gasp. It was like a mutilation the fact that she really wanted to look like a freak. Which is what blue eyes would've made. Her look like the damage was already done correct correct so i thought nobody's gonna remember how it really was. Nobody's and also there was no book about it <unk>. Nobody had talked about it touched it. I went there. Everybody went there and i've been told a number of times in public venues early on that'll hit more you know i really liked the book but i was really angry with you for writing it and putting it sort of putting our business in st the business of racism the business of self hatred and self loathing skin taller fights that we have with that a lot of people who are watching us right now and a lot of states don't even know exist because as we all adjust steel black folks to them and they don't know like you are fighting still amongst yourselves based upon degrade of color copiers versus assist the old and then the paper bags back tattoo. I didn't know about that. There's the perfect tests not now not anymore you know in in the forties and the thirties and black nightclubs in louisiana i never heard of black on nightclub and they wanted to keep the club you know above a certain hugh so they'd hold a paper bag up to whoever into the club and if your doctor in a bag you wouldn't that was a long time ago but it it seeps into the shoe. Oh yeah i think what i found was. There are a lot of things one thing was. I do one of my daughters. <hes> moved in with us when she was older and came with this message because she's dark complected that she's hugli and to try to tell her how beautiful she but i mean the direct message and that is hard because i don't know what to you know. Tony says a beautiful thing about the messages that we get about who we are when a child first walks in the room. Can you talk about that. I i said it's interesting to see when a kid walks in the room your child or anybody else's child. Do does your face lighter or four and that's what they're looking for. When my children used to walk in the room when they were little i looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers of the hair combed of stocks were up and so you think your affection and your deep love is on display. 'cause you're caring for them. It's not when they see you. They see the critical face. What's wrong now but then if you let your as i tried from then on to let your face speak what's in your heart because when they walked in the room i was glad to see them. It's just a small is that is that is what i think is so so profound because that is how you learn what your value is not by what the person is saying to you but what you feel when i was growing up my grandmother <hes> because she had to worked for <hes> white family in <hes> in mississippi and there's a photograph that i still have on my desk. The only photograph i have on my grandmother is with her holding this white child and when she would come home you know and with me chapped chastise me talk to me you know in in not the most loving term but every time she would ever talk about those white children's pleasure it was a she was pauline there would be this this this sort of glow low inside her about these white children and that was when i when i read what you'd said that's the message. That's why i got it but you better if you're white. You can be loved more if you're white. If i were only white she would love me. My i read the book again last night and when i got to the part where the berry pie i falls and and hear her own child is burned and she goes what honey and she slaps her child down on the ground up and slaps. Yes yes and it was underneath. We're concerned about berry juice on a dress good grip here. This is your show. You've you've messed up. My white folks kitchen. Just did you feel did you know no. I mean it's it's now the dramatic we've seen that absolutely senior and felt it i have i have i have even felt it. How are you affected. I took the book time. I think it opened my eyes <hes> i. I cannot experience what you all have experienced. Even oh now little bit the have i can remember being selected to be an angel in the church pageant and being told that i don't think it should be an angel because you have dark eyes and dark hair and you do now. Angels are blue eyed and blond. There is this hierarchy of <hes> race and at the top it's sort of a christian figure so long hair blue eyes blond and then everything everything else is down below until you get to animals so the farther away you are from that the less value you try. Dos you have that what we were talking talking about earlier. The paperback does the creole lines distinction color. We took upon ourselves. We took ugliness that circle cultivating chapter when you talk about the breedlove and their ugliness well. Every sentence is read tony morrison in a lot. Everybody knows i love tony's writing but i read it to open myself up and there's not a time when i come to you words when i have not been enhanced the language i mean we were talking about your truly gifted so yes i do because you surprised surprise. If you say no i think that you are truly gifted and i'll work hard and she works hard at it. I love that we do lots of shows on child raising in and how to handle your children <hes>. That's one of the most profound things i've ever heard for. All you moms worrying about dirty years or is your hair comb. The most important thing is which we all felt when we heard her say it is. Do your eyes light up when your child walks into the room wouldn't that big. That's profound so we're talking about the bluest by toni morrison. I i really do think it's a national treasure. Everybody should read it. Don't you think the world would be different. We'd be district always come away from a conversation with tony feeling a little smarter and more enlightened than we did. Before we sat down i think ncua to and this next part we talk about the secret that many incest survivors keep inside here now part two of our discussion with tony morrison now the other thing. That's interesting to me in this discussion. We were talking about the kinds of people we spoke a lot of of white women right to me about the bluest eye because of the incest a lot of young white females who are interested in the both because of that not being the level of let's say you know what and what's so interesting to me and i think at night have been the first time i read the bliss. I don't know that i made the connection having been a victim of sexual actual abuse as a child that i understood the complicity and vulnerability daughter of the of the daughter the second time because ause when many times people say to you i've said this before. I know you said people don't talk about ourselves. She must have missed that show. I talk about it. This is what is so difficult. This is what this this is. The confusion and horror of it is because if your child is i was where you don't feel loved and never felt any love and and when it happens to you as i say to my friends with daughters and young sons don't think it's going to be the horrible rape falling unconscious with charlie rally and new colour the first time a lot of times. It's so subtle to me. It started with a nineteen year old cousin playing footsie's you know and so you're thinking he he likes he likes me. He likes me for me inside of me. Following my uncle's around every time they came to visit me he likes me. He likes me want that and you want that. That does not mean you are asking to be raped but you want. You want the closest. Just as cola did felt at least i was has changed teams searching out of something other than what is never spoken about trying right. This girl told me she said i was my daddy's girlfriend friend and i said you mean you loved him. She said of course she said it wouldn't be as horrible as it is. If it was <unk> only hate it was just me hating him but what he did to me. That's hard but it's simple. It's the other part the fact that you was that young. I mean hers was infant. I mean it wasn't even they. She was walking. You know it was calculated horror story but at any rate it's it's more complicated as you say than just somebody abused. Somebody abused you get over it or not is much that that is why so many women carry the <hes> the guilt of it and the shame of it because they what did i do because sex felt felt good because into challenge to for people who are foster parents are adoptive parents you know helping a child recover and make sense of their life. This has this has happened to them at the hands of a family member and to be able over a period of time to heal and make sense and not feel guilty not feel ashamed not to feel worthless and that's a very very hard thing and made it very difficult more of this conversation in just a moment support for this episode comes from renewable. We've all been there that feeling of panic. After a terrible spill or accident on her favorite rug worst feeling ever will the stain come out. Will it look the same after all the scrubbing. You'll never have that feeling again with russell. Russell rugs are machine washable. Throw it in the wash. Throw it in the dryer and laid back out like now even even an eight by ten rug. -able rug fits standard washer dryer rubble. 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I think the best way to talk about her as fee to read your description of her from the book the this <hes> disruptor of seasons was a new girl in school named maureen peel a high yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into lynch ropes that hung down her back fluffy sweaters the color of lemon drops tucked into skirts with pleads so orderly the astounded us brightly colored knee the socks with white borders a brown velvet coat trimmed in white rabbit for matching muff. There was the hand of spring bring in her slow. Green is something summery in her complexion and a rich autumn ripeness in her walk. She enchanted the entire school. I guess she did hearing you read it. I forgot about the brown around velvet coat and the rabbit sweater the color of lemon drops. How could you not slapper not slap. We're not going to have all the you know. The teachers love love her. All black choirs the child and there was one girl who was very fair skin. She had the huge brown straight hair but she was black but she had green eyes and some really it. It was so nice. She couldn't say she didn't have anything to really you know but she was so beautiful and we all just kind of looked at the water because you could just comb her hair. You know my mother was crying and then the hairdresser is is ed her point of view but i love this line. I love this week where <hes> the girl saying all the time. This is after marine pill has said you're ugly. You're your ugly cute and all the time we knew that marine pill was not the enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred the thing to fear was that the thing that made her beautiful and not us. Why would the white children also respond to her way but why i children love her because she was closer in looks to them right. She had lovely long straight hair. You know curling. She was a high yellow dream child so she was a version vision of them little exotic perhaps a little tan but she was like as a white person. Come growing up. Were you aware of this was this why light is it not is quiet as it's kept absolutely were not aware in the least and there were three was it was eye opening for for a white person to understand <hes> and i think this is what i meant by an epiphany of of understanding of the rice <hes> it's the secret but it's a secret i need to and now the hierarchy that tony morrison was talking about that she talks about inner class. The closer you are to white and that is what has been adopted <music> in in the race. I feel that for my own personal situation. I mean i didn't i couldn't pass for white but i was educated in white schools and when i went among my contemporaries in the black side of town i was almost treated like a marine peel because listen to the way. She talked a great <music> hanno when she plays the show. Who does she think she and the thing is. You want to love the marine peel because they're not the enemy. No they're really not they. You know thing. They don't say that we should just eliminate the word beautiful because it's a relative it's but the of the virtues that is not want the virtues are not the accidents of birth the virtues things you work full to be forthright to be educated to be <hes> in control to be diplomatic to be healthy to be graceful to be. You know to have your body part of who you are. These are things you could work for. You can get the they're available to you. I always say that. Having children was the most it's liberating thing that ever happened to me and people say liberating. I thought having children was confining. I said no but i could be a certain kind of person now that i didn't have to be <hes> in the corporate world or where i was working because my children want something for me that nobody else did which i could deliver. They wanted honesty. They wanted somebody who was capable. They wanted somebody who could deal emergencies. They wanted somebody who was <hes> has since humor they they wanted like ten or twelve things. It seemed to me that were beneficial and that i could achieve they. They didn't want me to be sexy. They didn't want to be rich didn't want me. I mean all these things out here. Outside of ourselves told ourselves yeah so the idea of telling a child what is really the truth about him or herself. You're good. You're kind you are generous. You did was a that was a gracious thing you just did. You're pretty <hes>. What did you want us to know or z. From the bluest i i had a couple of ideas that merged which was was how to value another human being and that and i think i've said in other ways race when you know somebody's patties race. That's least information you. You don't know anything. The real information is elsewhere. When i first read the bluest sti- the thing that struck me the most is <hes> that anybody who allows themselves to be defined outside of their own personal vision for themselves that is a form of insanity and look at what the world has done to women and get out pull. Uh pull it up shaping up as you know you see young girls now thirteen fourteen years ago having plastic surgery already the colored contacts well would have to go. I should say that tony use it did pull the colour wouldn't have to go buy some style number one question but why did she have to go insane. There were no exits thank you. That's exactly there. Were no exit. There was nothing there were no adults. <hes> there were no teachers. There were no parents. There was this man in the neighborhood who said yeah you're right. You're horrible. I'll fix it but she had no doors open into her so she made a door for us and that was her insanity and she talked to a friend in there where she was accepted and she was finally loved and she was finally yeah. She found almost what she was looking on. Because you remember the title is the blue star yeah and there is no no i ultimately as blue enough as you as the yearning what hurt me about the book was there was not wanted. Not one and i wanted there to be one adult one and there really wasn't there was no one ever said poor baby report. No one ever just held her relent. I have seen some adults who are sick emotionally sick women mostly and some of them incarcerated you know they went this way. Maybe into some other life but you know you see the ravages of an unloved oft life. Can we talk about that incident in the store sure yes what happens when she goes to the store. Is that the first time she realizes for herself. I worked for him to attach drops and i remember that was a sense memory for me. There was one of those people in my neighborhood yeah where you go to the store and i mean we never wanting to touch. My hand always dropped the money ah he doesn't see her. This is not this is why he should she's exchange penny or whatever it is and the candy and that there was somebody back there having feelings or yearnings or desires or capable of being hurt this never would occur to him never on imaginable imaginable as worthy not just the buying mary james but of being part of the landscape and that's what's so powerful about the bluest eye. It's why you know. I feel like i would have done my job. I can retire by get the whole country to read them because i think it is a way a of saying to the world. This is what we're talking about when people say racist i'm not racist that doesn't exist or what are you talking about. I mean oprah look at your life to be able to see through the eyes of the chola. That is the world that so many of us have seen and that's twi. It's so exciting to go into a bookstore borders which is right across the street from me and to see cola display and redeem it will change the world every change the world. Love deserves to be validated and that's what it really helped me to remember. Do you remember the picture or the the the track of princess diana coming back from a trip in greeting her children with her arms outstretched and that look on her face for some reason last night. I thought about that on. I thought how could anyone just smile at this child may have been the only only love yeah in other than you know. I read that book and i thought you'd have to write another one. You have to write another one you written so many other great ones including getting the nobel prize. Thank you for your finest work for opening up all of us in ways that we never expected. Here's miss morris books for those of you who haven't had a chance to read it. Give yourself that gift of the bluest. I do that for yourself. Do that for yourself and for your children as you were saying if nothing else comes out out of the book. If you learn nothing else from the book will learn to treat your own children differently. Thank you tony morrison for the bluest eye for showing us. The world through the colas is i'm over winfrey and you've been listening to super soul conversations the podcast you can follow super soul on instagram twitter and and facebook if you haven't yet go to apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast join me next week for another super bowl conversation station thank you for listening starting august twenty fourth own proudly presents black women owned the conversation of four part special special love motherhood beauty mind body and soul. Watch this with every moment you know from your saturday august twenty fourth ten nine central.