That uncomfortable, cringe-inducing conversation on race that everyone always talks about? Toni Morrison wants to have it — and isn't pulling any punches.
In an interview with the Telegraph's Gaby Wood on Morrison's new novel, God Help The Child, the Nobel Prize–winning author explained when we'll know the conversation on race can come to an end.
"People keep saying, 'We need to have a conversation about race,’" she said. "This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back. And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, 'Is it over?’ I will say yes."
Morrison's remarks reflect the frustration and growing furor over the highly publicized string of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white officers, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to Eric Garner in New York City to Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Toni Morrison was right: African Americans don't trust cops to dole out equal justice
African Americans make up only 13 percent of the US population, but are killed by police at disproportionately higher rates than other races. Data suggests police are 21 times more likely to kill black teens than white teens.
So Morrison's dismal view isn't at all surprising. In fact, it's echoed throughout the black community. Take Ferguson, for instance. The protests that broke out after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson last August didn't occur in a vacuum. A March Department of Justice report showed the deep roots of residents' frustration: city officials balance their local budget by targeting low-income black residents with fines and court fees, and police disproportionately arrest and use force on black residents.
Morrison implied that she is waiting for the criminal justice system to treat white people as it does black people. She's not alone in her distrust of the system.
According to Gallup poll data, 37 percent of African Americans trust in police officers "a great deal," compared with 59 percent of white Americans.
And according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of black Americans believe they are treated less fairly than whites during encounters with police. Meanwhile, 37 percent of white people said they think black people are treated less fairly by police.
On Saturday, yet another protest — in yet another city — broke out over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man from Baltimore who died April 19 after suffering a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. Police have admitted they did not get Gray timely medical care when he asked for it. The protesters want justice. They want answers. And they want proof that this won't happen again.
Until then, the conversation won't stop.