When asked about her motivations for writing The Bluest Eye in an interview, Morrison claimed that she wanted to remind readers "how hurtful racism is" and that people are "apologetic about the fact that their skin [is] so dark." Reminiscing on her own experience, she recalled, "When I was a kid, we called each other names but we didn't think it was serious, that you could take it in." Expanding on this point of self-esteem, Morrison elaborated that she "wanted to speak on behalf of those who didn't catch that [they were beautiful] right away. [She] was deeply concerned about the feelings of ugliness." As seen throughout The Bluest Eye, this idea of "ugliness" is conveyed through a variety of characters. For example, Pecola, the main character of the book, wishes for blue eyes as a way to escape the oppression that results from her having dark skin. Through Pecola's characterization, Morrison seeks to demonstrate the negative impact racism can have on one's self-confidence and worth. As she concluded in her interview, she "wanted people to understand what it was like to be treated that way."
Toni Morrison began writing The Bluest Eye in a writing group she joined while teaching at Howard University. She said it was "fun with colleagues. But then they stopped letting us bring in 'high school essays,' etc.; so I would have to write something new." There, she wrote a passage that was later incorporated into the novel. When Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York, she would work on the novel in the evenings.
Morrison commented on her motivations to write the novel, saying, "I felt compelled to write this mostly because in the 1960s, black male authors published powerful, aggressive, revolutionary fiction or nonfiction, and they had positive racially uplifting rhetoric with them that were stimulating and I thought they would skip over something and thought no one would remember that it wasn't always beautiful."