- Faith & Family
Is there one definition for ‘blackness’ with which most of us can agree? And are we really living in a ‘post-racial world’ — a term that basically suggests that racism is a thing of the past? According to Toure, 39, a celebrated cultural critic, author and television personality who was in Miami last weekend as one of several Black writers featured at the Miami International Book Fair, racism remains imbedded in the fiber of America.
In his latest book, “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to be Black Now,” and in his discussion with The Miami Times, Toure talks about white privilege, expanding concepts of blackness and the way racism has morphed into something quite different but equally as destructive as it was in past generations.
“Who defines blackness — is it whites or Blacks?” he asked. “Often the definition is imposed on us by others, some even Black, who want to limit what we can do or who we are. I had to learn to reject that. Post-black refers to Blacks who want to embrace the Black tradition and community but also want the freedom to do other things — things like skydiving, for example, that are said to be activities Blacks don’t do. Being president was one of those things too until Barack Obama was elected. His victory changed the way we express or define blackness. For youth it was an extremely important moment because it normalized the strong Black Alpha male in the political realm.”
Toure goes on to say that because we live in a post-black era, you can be Black and define yourself in whatever manner you choose. To see if his thesis was valid, he interviewed over 100 Blacks, from Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates to Dave Chappelle and Lupe Fiasco.
“There are so many complexities and layers to what it means to be Black,” he said. “But no matter how you define yourself — your identity and your freedom — we still live in a world where race matters. The key is that it now matters in ever-changing ways. Racism in our parents’ era was plainly visible, like a bull coming towards you down the street that you couldn’t avoid. Today racism is like evaporating smoke or fog — it’s plainly visible but impossible to grab. That’s why Blacks need to develop a Teflon shield and super ego so they can deal with the still destructive power of racism. It one isn’t careful it can even destroy your soul.”
Racism — hard to see but omnipresent
Most of those whom he interviewed said the thing about racism that most effected them was the ‘unknowable.’
“Racism is now subliminal and subtle,” he said. “Instances of racism go on behind our back every day without our knowledge. But we suspect it and therefore we worry about it. Was that security guard following me because I am Black? Did the job go to someone else, was I denied the loan or did I fail to make the cut for entry into college because I’m Black? Because we still face these questions and often are unable to answer them, it’s clear that others, simply because we are Black, are unable or unwilling to see us at full capacity.”
As for America, Toure says he remains optimistic while knowing we are far from “living in Utopia.”
“We can waste our time asking who is racist and who is not — I think our time is better spent by considering how people perpetuate racial difference and whether we do so on purpose or inadvertently.”
By D. Kevin McNeir