Spent the long weekend reading Toure’s “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness.” Besides the fact that I can never look at Toure again without remembering how Piers Morgan whipped him down the size during his show, Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, I got through this book with five nodding heads out of five in approval.
Post-Blackness, according to Toure, is not the same as post-racial. Post-blackness refers to the state of not being held down/back by your race or blackness, or the tenets you’ve applied to it and the limits you’ve put on it.
Of course, there is nothing in the book I hadn’t known. I have lived my entire life in the post-blackness era–that is to say, never limiting my activities and hobbies by race, never apologizing for or being obsessed with my race; although, I have been obsessed with racism and racial issues.
In the book, Toure, journalist for various publications, including RollingStone magazine, praises President Obama and a handful of other black American for living post-black lives. Comfortable with being black, but not carrying the “burden of the race” on their shoulders.
He warns blacks not just of the white gaze–fear of what whites will think of you if you “act” stereotypical, but of the black gaze–what blacks think of you–are you acting black enough. Indeed, the latter is the major point of turmoil for many successful black people, Toure himself included. In fact, Toure has gone over his own incidents of being called “not black” in college, to illustrate his point about the black gaze.
If the white gaze is designed to humiliate, stereotype and hurt you, then the black gaze is designed to cut you down to size–not to kick you out of the race, but to reel you back into it, if you’re crossing the boundaries of blackness–those limits to activity, speech, attire, etc put upon blacks by whites and blacks alike. If you’re black you don’t do this; you can’t do that, etc.
In high school, I took a guitar class; one day after class, I was stopped by a black girl who told me she wanted to take the class but didn’t want to be the only black person in that class; she said it was okay for me because I was whitewashed.I have seen black students mock other black students for being whitewashed. The irony of course was that the mocked students were always honor roll students.
If I didn’t live a post-black life, I’d probably be a walking stereotype right now. I’d not know how to play the guitar, either. It seems that intelligent black kids are being punished, not just by the low-expectations white sets for them, but by the black gaze–or low expectations blacks set or accept for themselves as a form of self-preservation in a white dominated society.
I have always lived my life the way I wanted–liking Bob Dylan, if I please, and Hole, too. I have never apologized for being black, never treated my race as a handicap, or something with limits, much of which are stereotypical and unevolving. I think this is important, because the black people who are often the most successful are the ones who don’t.
Toure. Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness: what it means to be black now? New York: Free Press, 2011.