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Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now Hardcover – September 13, 2011
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A 2011 notable book. "...one of the most acutely observed accounts of what it is like to be young, black and middle-class in contemporary America. Toure inventively draws on a range of evidence...for a performance carried through with unsparing honesty, in a distinctive voice that is often humorous...always intensely engaging." - New York Times
"A compelling book in the age of Obama..." - Booklist
"...powerful...A likely bellwether for America's future struggles with race." - Kirkus Reviews
"Toure candidly tackles a burning issue confronting us today. Black America is undeniably a community 'free, but not equal,' and people from all walks of life are compelled to devise new approaches to confronting today's structural inequalities. Here Toure explores insights from many perspectives to help guide the way." - Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
"A fascinating conversation among some of America's most brilliant and insightful Black thinkers candidly exploring Black identity in America today. Toure powerfully captures the pain and dissonance of Black Americans' far too often unrequited love for our great nation." - Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP
"Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness is a tour de force! I applaud Toure's courage in standing up and telling it like it is. This special book will make you think, laugh, cry - and it will make you look at race and at yourself differently." - Amy DuBois Barnett, Editor-in-Chief, Ebony
"Toure has taken a question I have asked myself uncountable times over the course of my life and asked it of everyone: 'What does it mean to be Black?' The answer in this book are thought-provoking, uplifting, hilarious and sometimes sad. His sharp writing and self-effacing stories help digest some hard facts about how identity can be used for and against each of us - and why it matters so much to all of us." - Soledad O'Brien, CNN anchor and special correspondent
"Toure is one of my favorite writers. I've watched him grow and mature into the thinking man's writer for the neo era. Extremely observant on class and culture, this book is a must-have guide from one of the few remaining minds with the courage to tell the truth about America's beautiful stain." - Questlove, from the Roots
"This book is a torch! Even though I hate highlighting, I couldn't help it. I need to be re-reminded of so much of what Toure's saying. He offers up an insightful, smart, hip exploration of Blackness that makes it clear we should all relax: no one has a right to define Blackness. Black is whatever Black is. He's brave to tackle this issue - I can't wait for my son to read this!" - Terry McMillan, bestselling author of A Day Late and a Dollar Short and Getting to Happy
"With Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness, Toure fulfills his potential as a journalist, prose stylist and thinker. He has written a book that captures the new possibilities, as well as the traps, that confront black folks in the heart of the Obama era. This isn't simply a book about now, but our collective future." - Nelson George, author of City Kid, director of HBO's Life Support
"Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness is a necessary book. To fulfill your potential as an individual or as a people, you need a clear sense of self. Toure has done the difficult but liberating work of moving the discussion of race beyond the Black Power-era thinking of the 1970's into the 21st Century." - Reginald Hudlin, filmmaker
"This book is quintessential Toure: smart, funny, irreverent, and provocative as hell. Rejecting old school racial dogma and new school myths about post-raciality, he offers a powerful and original thesis on the status of Blackness in the 21st century. Through his sharp analysis and honest reflections, Toure challenges us to embrace a more mature, sophisticated, and ultimately liberating notion of racial identity. Any serious conversation on race and culture must begin with this book." - Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Columbia University Professor and host of "Our World With Black Enterprise"
About the Author
Touré is a co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle and a columnist for Time.com. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?, a New York Times and Washington Post notable book. He lives in Brooklyn.
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What is this message? Touré believes that we need to redefine - really, expand - what it means to be black. Illustration: the book starts off with Touré's recount of his preparation to skydive (for a tv show). One of his friends casually suggested that he'd never jump out of an airplane because... that's not something black people do. What Touré is NOT saying is that we need to get to a post-racial ethos, where there is NOTHING (of significance) it means to be black... only that the concept needs to become a lot more elastic than it is.
The book is Touré's quest to find out what being black means to people, and to find out, he interviewed a large number of black scholars, artists and public figures. And his answer: there are as many ways to be black as there are black people, and we risk unjustly stigmatizing if we police what blackness must mean.
But honestly, while I loved the book, the message, and the writing, Touré didn't deal with what I thought was an obvious and potentially damning objection: for a category to mean something, it has to have borders, and expanding the borders too much takes the meaning away from the category. In some sense, "there are as many ways to be black as there are black people" is a tautology, for how would you know who black people are if there is nothing particular it means to be black. If it is just a skin color, then there is no point in talking about cultural blackness at all (which I doubt is Touré's intent). But if there is something it culturally (or spiritually) it means to be black, then there HAVE to be borders to the concept of blackness that are something beyond "it all comes down to skin pigment."
I want to stress that I enjoyed reading the book, and Touré writes about everything from his own "You're not black!" experience to the diversity of black art, to the existence of things like stereotype threat and microaggressions. And this is why I am giving the book four stars despite what I see as Touré's failure to address a point that needs to be at the core of his argument.
The biggest issue that I have is the chapter on how to have more Pres. Obamas. Toure sets the book up to say that it's okay to be post-Black. Indeed, he encourages people to be who they are not conform to any type of societal expectation. However, he says -- and I agree -- that President Obama's complexion helped him get elected. This, of course, begs the question how are we supposed to raise more President Obamas if skin complexion is immutable? Also, he says -- and again I agree -- that President Obama would not have been elected if he had a White wife. This flies in the face of his it's-okay-to-be-post-Black theory because if it truly were okay, one would not have to choose between marrying someone and running for President. This is the type of confined thinking that the book was intended to thwart.
i feel like this book .BUT with hat being said.
In my opinion, this book spent far to much time focusing on how my blackness is a reflection of racism .
Which is absurd. Who i am as a black person and how my personal journey carries out has nothing to do with how white people perceive me.
Being black in America does walk side by side with racism as has been a sad part of black history in this country but by no means does that define me.
On the other hand, in my opinion, Toure kind of blames the victim towards the end of his piece when he refers to how a lot of Black people, in affect, rebuke the system which leads to our rejection for employment and becoming high level executives. I'm not sure I fully agree when he refers to how a lot of Black people set themselves up to experience a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think it's unfair to juxtapose my son with my brother, for example, who grew up in poverty with a system that did not embrace him as a Black man with few to nil resources who was constantly reminded of his worth (or lack of it). He had a high school degree and I watched him struggle and try to get jobs, get close and then see the job go to a white person. During my varied professional career I've worked for the IBMs, Procter & Gambles and the like and, even thought they did let a few Black men through, I observed how a Black man was not valued no matter how hard he tried. Also, as an elementary school teacher I witnessed first hand how acting-out little white boys were labeled `mischievous' while unchallenged, brilliant and creative little black boys that acted out were perceived and labeled as hoodlums or `truant'. In my current field as a social worker my heart breaks every time I counsel downtrodden Black men that this system has treaded on to the point where they have given up. No one can deny the white privilege along with the structural and systematic racism; though more subtle and maybe less often, but still prevalent in our system. I think this applies even more to the `abandoned' category of Blacks that Eugene Robinson's refers to in his book. His description of the abandoned: "with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction".
Finally, one term that resonated with me in the final chapter is the term `post whiteness' which may be more apropos in the near future.