A Book Review for Toni Morrison’s, The Source of Self-Regard
“Don’t let anybody, anybody convince you this is the way the world is and therefore must be. It must be the way it ought to be.” ― Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations.
Do you remember when you learned that life isn’t exactly fair? That everyone doesn’t receive the same chances. Or consequences. You were probably young. Because it’s been like this, uneven and unequal, for a long time. But after the past year of reckoning, there’s a heightened awareness and outcry for, social justice. Which means changing the underlying systems, we live and work in.
And it’s only when you understand, how the flawed systems affect your daily life, that you can begin to forgive yourself. Years of self-doubt will fade into a new understanding. One that includes, the proper context. This month, as we celebrate liberation, in the form of Pride and Juneteenth and look towards a brighter, vaccinated future, remember there’s a role for all of us in dismantling broken norms.
We Still Struggle With ‘Isms’
The incomparable Toni Morrison’s, The Source of Self-Regard is a timeless take on how the systems we live and work in, drive inequities. And what we can do to challenge them. In the book, she tackles every ‘ism’ that plagues our society. Including racism, classism, sexism and nationalism, with sharp insights. She highlights how the lack of inclusion, locks humanity in place. And offers thoughtful perspectives on why gender gaps – in pay, leadership and opportunity, remain.
But we Can Help Each Other
She talks about the importance of Mothers, helping Mothers. And the children, of other Mothers, in a poetic way. She shows how artificial and small the divisions that separate us, from collaboration and offering mutual respect, are. And she delves into the complicated reasons women haven’t helped each other in the workplace.
Most importantly, she inspires us to think beyond these limitations. And to take part in systems change and personal change, to achieve our full potential.
Enjoy key points and Toni Morrison quotes from the book:
“Our past is bleak. Our future dim. But I am not reasonable. A reasonable man adjusts to his environment. And unreasonable man does not. All progress, therefore, depends on the unreasonable man. I prefer not to adjust to my environment. I refuse the prison of “I” and choose the open spaces of “we”.”
“Inviting compassion into the bloodstream of an institution’s agenda or a scholar’s purpose is more than productive, more than civilizing, more than ethical, more than humane; it’s humanizing.”
But Start Small
“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another,”
Don’t Seek Simple Answers to Complex Problems
“We can be clear. We can identify the enemy. We can begin by asking ourselves what is right rather than what is expedient. Know the difference between fever and the disease. Between racism and greed. We can be clear and we can be careful. Careful to avoid the imprisonment of the mind, the spirit, and the will of ourselves and those among whom we live. We can be careful of tolerating second-rate goals and secondhand ideas.”
Challenge Your Own Thinking, Often
“How to be both free and situated; how to convert a racist house into a race-specific yet nonracist home? How to enunciate race while depriving it of its lethal cling? They are questions of concept, of language, of trajectory, of habitation, of occupation, and, although my engagement with them has been fierce, fitful, and constantly (I think) evolving, they remain in my thoughts as aesthetically and politically unresolved.”
“I am suggesting that we pay as much attention to our nurturing sensibilities as to our ambition. You are moving in the direction of freedom, and the function of freedom is to free somebody else. You are moving toward self-fulfillment, and the consequences of that fulfillment should be to discover that there is something just as important as you are.”
And Value Humanity Without Exception
“…To what do we pay greatest allegiance? Family, language group, culture, country, gender? Religion, race? And if none of these matter, are we urbane, cosmopolitan, or simply lonely? In other words, how do we decide where we belong? What convinces us that we do?”
“…Racism may wear a new dress, buy a new pair of boots, but neither it nor its succubus twin fascism is new or can make anything new. It can only reproduce the environment that supports its own health: fear, denial, and an atmosphere in which its victims have lost the will to fight.”
“Homelessness has been recharacterized as streetlessness. Not the poor deprived of homes, but the homed being deprived of their streets.”
Support Other Women (and Other Women’s Children)
“I am alarmed by the violence that women do to one another: professional violence, competitive violence, emotional violence. I am alarmed by the willingness of women to enslave other women. I am alarmed by a growing absence of decency on the killing floor of professional women’s worlds.”
So, wherever you are on your journey, forgive yourself for not getting it right. Whatever ‘it’ is. As we slowly emerge from this time of pause; refuel, reflect and then find a new way. The place you’ve chosen to go, may be exactly right. But there are many routes you can take to reach your destination. And the systems that support you, matter.
Whether you are in the struggle of otherness, or want to deeply understand it and support more equitable outcomes, turn to the wise words of Toni Morrison, for inspiration.
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Tags: equity, gender equality, health and wellbeing for Moms, social justice