Poetry: Toni Morrison Speaks Posthumously on the Oprah Winfrey Show After an Audience Views When They See Us by Yolanda J. Franklin

In “Toni Morrison Speaks Posthumously on The Oprah Winfrey Show After an Audience Views When They See Us,” Yolanda J. Franklin recalls the history and prevalence of racism in America, specifically The Central Park 5 Case. Written with an alarming clarity, Franklin debunks racist talking points like “It has nothing to do with race,” by showing that “Whiteness/ is a master magician.” We must not let the trick be on us.


Toni Morrison Speaks Posthumously on The Oprah Winfrey Show After an Audience Views When They See Us

They always say, It has nothing to do with race.
That’s the complicated thing about lies—, we become
what we believe. It’s the marginalia constructed
by the moral habits of whiteness. It’s just as much
the mean machinations of men as the trick itself,
but the real trick is making you believe. Whiteness
is a master magician. Race is the greatest invention
since womankind, a tale forged by those who need
to subscribe to their myopic pathosis like a confederacy
of dunces full of snare and malediction, signifying this
disease. Hear me, the disease is not racism.
It is the greed for sweetness and power. The New
World epidemic of this carcinoma hit in 1619.
Here, it’s 1989 and the Garden of Eden is Central
Park. Say their names: Steve Lopes, Antron McCray,
Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana,
and Korey Wise. I read their faces—they are the sepia
edges of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Tell me these
three things: who is Eve, who is the snake,
and who is God this time? Never underestimate
the ferocity of the racial imaginary. We must fight
to douse the flames of xenophobia.
The spiteful house of history lies
in the corner of my apartment in heaven. I ask you:
What covenant haunts each body?
How long will history sever
us to subpoena prosthetic limbs?


Yolanda J. Franklin

Blood Vinyls (Anhinga Press) is Yolanda J. Franklin's debut poetry collection that Roxane Gay insists is a "must-must-must read." A three-time Fulbright Scholar Award Finalist (’19, ‘18 & ‘17), Franklin is also a Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow. Her poems appear or are set to appear in Sugar House Review, Southern Humanities Review, and The Langston Hughes Review. Franklin's poetry also appears in the recent anthology It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop. Also, she is a two-time recipient of the J.M. Shaw Academy of American Poets Award. Franklin is a proud third generation Floridian, born in the state's capital—Tallahassee.

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