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A quick, powerful story I will never, ever forget about #ToniMorrison:

In college I befriended a fellow student I’ll call James. James was Black but had been adopted by a white family and raised in an all white community. I was one of his 1st black friends. At 20.
I was an African American studies minor and convinced James, who was a business major, to take a Black literature class with me to fulfill one of his electives. The first book we read was The Bluest Eye.
I had read it in high school, it’s an amazing text but wasn’t new to me. Some others in the class had read it before too, maybe half of us, but for many folks, it was new. The professor began quizzing us on why the book is considered so seminal.
After a few other comments James raised his hand. He was choking on his words, it was obvious he felt angry and ashamed: “This is the 1st book by a Black person I’ve ever read,” he said quietly, “I didn’t know Black people could write like this.”
The room was the most quiet I have ever heard. This young Black man had made it to college without ever reading a Black author. The other students, Black and white, were silent. The professor was silent. No one knew what to say right then.
James started crying. “I read it twice already,” he muttered softly. About half the room was teared up. To this day it is one of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in a classroom. The professor pulled us back together and the class went on.
We read Ellison, Hughes, Hurston and others in that class. Years later James told me that class changed his life. It changed how he understood Black people, how he understood America, but most importantly it helped him understand many experiences he had never had language for.
He told me he took The Bluest Eye home to his parents. Asked them why they kept it from him, pleaded w/ them to read it. Used it to try to get them to SEE. That relationship isn’t my story to tell, but thank you Toni Morrison for helping my friend & many others to see themselves.
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