Black on White Violence Advocated in Sula
"And white women? They chase you [black men] to every corner of the earth, feel for you under every bed. I knew a white woman wouldn't leave the house after six o'clock for fear one of you would snatch her.… They think rape soon's they see you, and if they don't get the rape they looking for, they scream it anyway just so the search won't be in vain." (Morrison)
This is how Sula, the heroine of Toni Morrison's novel, refers to what she feels to be every white woman's secret desire to be raped by a black man.
Morrison--who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988--is one of the most assigned writers in college literature courses today, and her novel Sula (1973) is certainly the most popular of her works. Millions of college students have read this book, and it is safe to say that Morrison's view of the word, especially the white world, makes a big impression on impressionable minds.
The plotless Sula is the story of a friendship between two black woman: Sula and Nel. The women's relationship is played out against the backdrop of malicious, evil whites who insult and perpetrate other outrages against blacks in general and black women in particular.
For example, Nel's mother is reprimanded by a white conductor for being in the white section of a southern train: "What was you doin' in that coach yonder?...We don't 'low no mistakes on this train. Now git your butt on in there." As Nel and her mother progress further south, even the public toilets marked COLORED WOMEN disappear: the women are forced to relieve themselves in "a field of high grass on the far side of the track," and Nel eventually learns how to "fold leaves" expertly.
Later in the novel, Sula and Nel are tormented by "four white boys in their early teens, sons of some newly arrived Irish people," who "occasionally entertained themselves in the afternoon by harassing black schoolchildren....These particular boys caught Nel once, and pushed her from hand to hand until they grew tired of the frightened helpless face."
Again, when a black boy accidentally drowns to death, the white bargeman who pulls the body out of the water shakes his head "in disgust at the kind of parents who would drown their own children. When he wondered, will those people ever be anything but animals, fit for nothing but substitutes for mules, only mules didn't kill each other the way niggers did."
For the black townspeople in Sula, whites are just another disease or natural disaster: "The purpose of evil was to survive it and they determined...to survive floods, white people, tuberculosis, famine and ignorance."
How do today's black male students feel when they read such novels in their college courses? Do they thirst for revenge against the white man and his woman--a woman who, no matter how much she may protest to the contrary, is--to use Morrison's phrase--"looking for" it anyway? Writers like Morrison stoke the twin flames of lust and...