TONI MORRISON TAKES CLASS PRIVILEGED WHITE FEMINISM TO TASK!
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is my favorite book of all-time. I have read the book many times, and I learn something new about myself and the world each time I re-read it. As a feminist, I think deeply about the ways race and class contour our experiences and understandings of gender oppression. Toni Morrison has written powerfully about race and gender throughout her illustrious career. Her use of Pauline Breedlove to showcase how class privileged white feminism has consistently betrayed Black women is yet another brilliant stroke of her intellectual imagination. On page 120, Pauline is reminiscing on her life, her relationship with her white female employer, and her relationship with her husband. The passage illuminates the doubly fraught position of the Black woman when she is up against both white supremacy and black patriarchy. Pauline reminisces,
“I would have stayed on ‘cepting Cholly come over by where I was working and cut up so. He come there drunk wanting some money. When that white woman seen him, she turned red. She tried to act strong-like, but she was scared bad. Anyway, she told Cholly to get out or she would call the police. I would of gone upside his head, but I don’t want no dealings with the police. So I taken my things and left. I tried to get back, but she didn’t want me no more if I was going to stay with Cholly. She said she would let me stay if I left him. I thought about that. But later on it didn’t seem none too bright for a black woman to leave a black man for a white woman. She didn’t never give me the eleven dollars she owed me, neither. That hurt bad. The gas man had cut the gas off, and I couldn’t cook none. I really begged that woman for my money. I went to see her. She was mad as a wet hen. Kept on telling me I owed her for uniforms and some old broken-down bed she give me. I didn’t know if I owed her or not, but I needed my money. She wouldn’t let up none, neither, even when I give her my word that Cholly wouldn’t come back there no more. Then I got desperate I asked her if she would loan it to me. She was quiet for a spell, and then she told me I shouldn’t let a man take advantage over me. that I should have more respect, and it was my husband’s duty to pay the bills, and if he couldn’t, I should leave and get alimony. All such simple stuff. What was he gone give me alimony on? I seen she didn’t understand that all I needed from her was my eleven dollars to pay the gas man so I could cook. She couldn’t even get that one thing through her thick head. ‘Are you going to leave him, Pauline?’ she kept on saying. I thought she’d give me my money if I said I would, so I said ‘Yes, ma’am’ ‘All right,’ she said. ‘You leave him, and then come back to me to work, and we’ll let bygones be bygones.’ ‘Can I have my money today?’ I said. ‘No’ she said. ‘Only when you leave him. I’m only thinking of you and your future. What good is he, Pauline, what good is he to you?’ How you going to answer a woman like that, who don’t know what a good man is, and say out of one side of her mouth she’s thinking of your future but won’t give you your own money so you can buy you something besides baloney to eat? So I said, ‘No good, ma’am. He ain’t no good to me. But just the same, I think I’d best stay on.’ She got up, and I left.
So much for “sisterhood.”