The Paris Review

White People Must Save Themselves from Whiteness

Toni Morrison, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin

There is a neurological condition that causes brief paralysis after sleep. In my family we call it the witch’s wake, a lovely, macabre title for a terrifying predicament. This happened to me a few times as a teenager: I rose to consciousness out of a dream, out of normal sleep, only to be locked in an unresponsive body. This was as close to death as I could fathom then, as close to being buried alive, which may not be in the top five on my list of worst fears, but it’s on there. The whole body becomes a tomb and the mind is a ghost, skimming the space between the living and everything else. I remember screaming when it happened, hard, loud, in tears, and yet I was silent. I say this because it is the nearest analogy for explaining not

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