Afua Hirsch in her book, Brit(ish) writes that Toni Morrison gave a speech in 1975 saying:

'It's important to know ... the very serious distraction of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn't shaped right, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, and so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is neccessary. There will always be one more thing.'

Q. Where did she gave this speech on the pervasive aspects of racism and to which audience?

  • I added the appropriate tags and removed your last paragraph. Re your comments about a "black literature" or "African-American literature" tag, please note that this site uses such tags for languages only (russian-literature, persian-literature, japanese-literature, etc.), and neither "black" nor "African" nor "American" is a language. See this meta post and others linked from it. (How would you define "black literature" anyway? Seems like a can of worms we'd rather not open, classifying authors by their skin colour.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 9, 2018 at 8:48
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    @Rand al'Thor: Have you not heard of 'Black History Month' - how did they define it? Dec 9, 2018 at 15:27
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    @Rand al'Thor: It's a conventional description already used in classifying literature - why reinvent the wheel? Dec 9, 2018 at 15:31
  • Re BHM, I don't know, but perhaps they have a fuzzier definition than would be good for an SE site. In any case, our convention is to use body-of-literature tags for languages only - if you want to change that, the correct place is meta, not main-site comments/edits.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 9, 2018 at 18:18
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    @Randal'Thor This is a meta discussion really, but the OP has a point here in the sense that both "black literature" and "american-literature" are certainly widely understood terms. I think the problem is more that we've defined the use of "x-literature" as being language specific only, leading to an awkward clash. We perhaps should have gone with x-language instead, leaving x-literature for countries and cultures, but maybe it's a bit late now.
    – Matt Thrower
    Dec 10, 2018 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


In another part of that same book (I cannot find the page number in Google books), the author says this speech was at Portland University.

"Toni Morrison, one of the foremost storytellers of my lifetime, captured the futility of 'celebrating' black history, with a powerful speech in 1975. 'It's important to know ... the very serious function of racism, which is distraction,' Morrison told students at Portland State University."

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