The Exclusivity of Racial Categories: An Analysis of the Racial Ambiguity in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” College

Post-colonialism is concerned with the effects of colonization on the colonized. In fact, Richard Schur argues “that there can be no simple escape from the effects race, racism, gender, and sexism without some sort of decolonization” (277). One affect involves how language is used to form racial categories. Contemporary ideas of race include the belief that everyone fits into their rightful category. A black person must look and act a certain way because that is the Western assumption. This goes for any race. By refusing to racially identify any of her characters, Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” makes this Western way of thinking difficult. Readers find themselves preoccupied with racializing each character, relying on the characters’ mannerisms, appearances, experiences, speech, etc. Readers search for anything that signals “blackness” or “whiteness” to them in order to properly categorize Twyla and Roberta. In reality, “Recitatif’s” racial ambiguity confronts readers with their own stereotyped ways of thinking, demonstrating how racial categories are Western constructs. In addition, Morrison is careful to go against the structure of racial categories to confuse readers even more, demonstrating the power that writers hold in...

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