Toni Morrison’s iconic works deal with the history and deep trauma of Black experience in America—a concept that her past interviews show that some White journalists just don’t get. 

On the occasion of the “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon” author’s 85th birthday, we offer one of the better instances of her talent for putting interviewers in their place. During an interview from the 1990s with Charlie Rose, Morrison provides the perfect answer to a question about why she centers Black protagonists instead of White ones. Here’s part of her answer:

I have had reviews in the past that have accused me of not writing about White people…as though our lives have no meaning and no depth without the White gaze. And I’ve spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the White gaze was not the dominant one in any of my White books. 

See the clip above, and remember: Morrison would never have to answer these questions if she were White.