The Arrogance of Ignorance

There is a danger of becoming de-sensitized to the outrageousness of the Trump family’s actions. They spring from the realm of reality TV (mis-behavior and moral poverty are the coin of that realm), but sadly—devastatingly—DT & his progeny now affect the lives of millions in their dance of greed and self-aggrandizement.

Recently I was left breathless by Ivanka Trump’s use of Toni Morrison’s work in her recently published book. In a chapter on time management, Ivanka lifts these powerful words from Beloved, Morrison’s book on the lives of a community of ex-slaves who move through the psychological and physical devastation of slavery to claim human dignity in the face of unimaginable oppression.

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

Having read and taught Beloved throughout my 30 year-teaching career, I approach each study  with reverence: Morrison has crafted an exquisite and painful work of art in response to the tragedy of slavery and the ongoing racism that is its foundation.

I think this is a MUST-READ book. Immersing oneself in it sparks that magic generated by great works of art: through the creative act of reading we are inspired to informed empathy. Beloved brings the reader into an understanding—not total, but potential—of the psychological devastation of slavery and the dehumanization that is the history of racism.

Everyone should read this book.

Ivanka Trump has not read this book.

If she had, she would not have been able to cherry-pick Morrison’s quote in order to describe being a slave to one’s schedule. Ivanka Trump writes:

“Are you a slave to your time or the master of it?” and “Despite your best intentions, it’s easy to be reactive and get caught up in returning calls, attending meetings, answering e-mails.”

Did she just—wait, no way. Deploying Morrison’s quote, Ivanka compares the loss of one’s humanity, dignity and family in a life-long system of enforced servitude to the distraction of answering emails. Yup- that is what she did.

If she had read the book and understood it, she would know that Morrison is referring to characters who have had their children torn from them, their backs lacerated, their genitals abused, their labor appropriated, their husbands lynched and burned. She is not talking about time management. To relocate this history of racial abuse in the context of time management is grotesque and inappropriate beyond belief.

Ironically, this misuse of Morrison’s words points up a fundamental flaw: if you have no curiosity or empathy towards anyone beyond your immediate family border, you neither recognize nor respect the humanity of others. A good education that includes deep reading of great literature widens our very narrow perspective of who we are in the world, who we are in relation to others. Greed and hunger for power obliterate any understanding of how the actions of individuals affect others and the world around them—the consequences of acting without moral sense are devastating. Ivanka Trump’s appropriation of a carefully wrought phrase that illuminates the threat to the soul in the face of institutionalized racism exemplifies the dangerous arrogance of ignorance.

With thanks to GB, ADM & IR for helping turn this rant into something readable…

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