The death of Toni Morrison in 2019 left a significant vacuum in the world of literature. Morrison, a celebrated black American writer, will be remembered for championing women’s rights and equality, especially for African Americans living in a deeply segregated America. As one of the leading black writers of her generation, Morrison was not blind to the rampant racism in America. In her novel, Song of Solomon, Morrison places racism as one of her central themes. She believes that racism is the root cause of misery. As black characters strive to discover their true identities, they unearth dark secrets about the evils of racism. In Song of Solomon, Morrison believes that racism causes suffering, breaks relationships among African Americans, and is the reason for inhumane brutality.
Morrison believes that racism is the greatest cause of suffering. Racism has been a major social problem in the United States since the slavery era. Racial discrimination against blacks is still a major social problem in contemporary America. The value that Americans accord the color of one’s skin is so significant to the extent that it can be a core determinant of life and death. For example, Macon Dead tells Milkman that his grandfather would have disowned him for being too dark-skinned. Precisely, he says, “He delivered both your sisters himself and each time all he was interested in was the color of their skin. He would have disowned you” (Morrison 71). Milkman’s grandfather was a doctor, and he disliked his dark skin in favor of lighter skin. Hence, dark-skinned children in America are concerned about the color of their skin, and this affects their self-esteem and confidence. Morrison believes that this notion is responsible for human suffering since it is impossible to alter one’s skin color, yet one is subjected to prejudices throughout his or her lifetime.
Racism is also responsible for broken families among African Americans, according to Tony Morrison. During slavery days, it was not uncommon for slaves to run away to freedom, leaving behind the spouses and children. This aspect not only caused great misery to mothers and their children but also broke family ties. When children reached a certain age, they would be sold away and probably never to reunite with their families again. Readers learn that Solomon, Milkman’s great-great-grandfather, had flown to Africa, leaving behind his family in the Americas. These complex natures of African American families are reflected even in modern America. As Wilson et al. contend, Morrison wanted to show a close link between racism and broken families by frequently revisiting broken families in African American communities (2). Morrison was a divorcee and a mother of two children (Phiri 121). Asked whether her own life was a reflection of her book, she maintained that divorce was a pathway to her freedom. Racism, according to Morrison, was an institution that eroded African family ties through the decades of economic discrimination. Her divorce parallels dysfunctional black families reflected in her novel.
Finally, Morrison demonstrates how racism has shaped inhumanity by fuelling brutality. Morrison uses a non-biased reflection of racism in America by rejecting the common notion that depicts whites as racists and blacks as the sole victims. She opines that even African Americans have contributed to rampant racism against whites. Deaths have marked the results, and the formation of racial sects aimed to eliminate their victims. For instance, Guitar joins the Seven Days, a faction that targets and kills white Americans. However, Seven Days claims that they only kill as a form of retaliation against black deaths in the area. For example, Macon Sr. was killed in the full view of his children by white racists (Morrison 101). The brutality is not limited to the white-black relationships. Morrison points out that racism can be internal, between members of the same community. In this regard, she attacks affluent African Americans, who discriminates against fellow poor African Americans. For example, Macon Dead uses shady business tactics to extort money from poor blacks. He hates blacks and relocates to Honore, a community composed mainly of white people (Morrison 94). These forms of racism create hatred among members of the black community. Morrison is categorical of African Americans since she carefully ensures that all the major characters are black. This approach makes it evident that the novel addresses the plight of African Americans, but it eases the understanding of how racism has shattered the social lives of African Americans.
Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon explores the issue of racism in the United States, noting that the problem is the reason for suffering, family issues, and brutality among individuals in the community. It cuts across several generations. She explores how the issue of racism has stagnated in the US. Racism is identified as the primary cause of human suffering in the United States, dysfunctional families among black communities, and inhumane brutality. By revisiting several generations, Morison shows how the perennial social problem of racism has negatively affected Americans. Importantly, Morrison condemns racism by associating it with adverse consequences such as death, poverty, and broken families.
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Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. Knopf, 1977.
Phiri, Aretha. “Expanding Black Subjectivities in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.” Cultural Studies, vol. 31, no. 1, 2016, pp. 121-142.
Wilson, Rosebel, et al. “The Cultural Interpretation of Black English in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” International Journal of Engineering Technology Science and Research, vol. 4, no. 10, 2020, pp. 1-4.