Toure Discusses What It Means To Be Post-Black Author and cultural critic Toure has written Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to be Black Now. He joins Michele Norris to discuss what it means to be post-black — as well as President Obama's interview with BET on Monday night.

Toure Discusses What It Means To Be Post-Black

Toure Discusses What It Means To Be Post-Black

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Author and cultural critic Toure has written Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to be Black Now. He joins Michele Norris to discuss what it means to be post-black — as well as President Obama's interview with BET on Monday night.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


The word post-racial has been thrown around an awful lot over the past few years. Some eagerly embraced the term to help explain political and demographic changes taking place in America. Some dismissed the whole concept, saying it's ridiculous to suggest that America has moved past issues of race.

W: And Toure joins me now. So glad you're with us. Welcome to the program.

TOURE: Thank you. Now, of course, you know that post-racial and post-black are not synonymous, they're not at all the same sort of thing.

NORRIS: And I was going to ask you that. What does that this term mean? What is the post-Black era?

TOURE: Blackness is not necessarily the entirety of who they are. And it's not that there's some people who are post-black and some are not. We're in a post-black era, where identity-freedom is infinity and you can be black however you choose. And as Skip Gates says, if there's 40 million black people, there's 40 million ways of being black. These concepts of authenticity and legitimacy are vanquished and bankrupt and illegitimate themselves.

NORRIS: But not really vanquished because America seems to ever be engaged in this debate about what it means to be black. Is someone actually black enough?

TOURE: I mean, I see there are self-appointed volunteer identity cops who want to talk about this person is not black enough. But for the most part, we're starting to understand that these concepts are irrelevant and...

NORRIS: But the soul patrol has not gone away.

TOURE: No...


TOURE: These are ridiculous concepts. You can form a blackness for yourself and all forms of it are legitimate.

NORRIS: You look at the black experience, as multifaceted as it is, through various different prisms in this book. But I want to focus on politics and, in particular, the criticism that's being waged at President Barack Obama from the black community. And before we go on, I want to take a listen to part of President Obama's interview that aired last night on BET.

BARACK OBAMA: There have been a handful of African-American leaders who've been critical. They were critical when I was running for president. So there's always going to be somebody who's critical of the president of the United States. That's my job, in part is - particularly when the economy is going as badly as it is right now - people are going to have concerns and they should.

NORRIS: Is the way this is billed and presented, is that not in itself somewhat of a double standard?

TOURE: I think that it's also - speaks to what I talk about with the complexity of modern black America, is that you would have a black president whom many black people are like, I have questions about this guy; I just don't accept him at face value; I wonder about this guy.

NORRIS: And what's that based on?

TOURE: Well, I think a lot of it is based on policies. I think we're a bit surprised that he's not a black leader.

NORRIS: But he would say he is a black leader, when you say he's not...

TOURE: In fact, he can't do or won't do certain things because he's black. And the sort of reach out that a Bill Clinton might have done for Barack Obama, it would seem that he's giving special favors.

NORRIS: You know, I'm looking at the last chapter in your book. And you note that there's a difference between fighting the power and trying to, yourself, become powerful. Were there people who confused that message based on the last presidential election?

TOURE: I look at that and I think about the much smaller mountains that some of us, that I and others, are trying to climb. What are we reaching for that we're thinking maybe we can't because racism will stop us? What else is it that we might be able to create, succeed, achieve?

NORRIS: Toure, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much.

TOURE: Thank you.

NORRIS: Toure is the author of "Who's Afraid Of Post-Blackness: What It Means To Be Black Now."

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