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More on Touré and post-blackness

December 10, 2011

I wrote a short critical essay for the Baltimore Brew expressing my disappointment with Touré’s recent talk at the Enoch Pratt Free Library that you can read here. As my friend Gary points out, Touré’s central point is that no expression of Blackness is any less authentic than another. Certainly, I agree with this assertion. However, fundamentally, there is nothing unique about Touré’s point: there is no critical interrogation regarding blackness that hasn’t already been discussed throughout black intellectual history. Touré is repackaging and disseminating to a wider audience that blackness cannot and should not be restricted in its definition. Michael Eric Dyson, who shared the stage with Touré, goes as far to say that Touré is translating critical dialectics for mass consumption. And I appreciate that work. But it isn’t new, and it isn’t advancing the conversation. I am bemused as to how Touré’s perspective has received such adulation and consideration as an important new contribution to discussions of race.

I’m hoping for a more expansive discussion on “post-blackness” that really wrestles with complexities of race, class, and disenfranchisement. As Johns Hopkins University professor Lester Spencer tells the Baltimore Sun, the literature of post-blackness spends too little time talking about “the cultural and economic restrictions placed on the have-nots.”

“They’re kind of wrestling with it from the wrong end. There is a way to have this conversation that deals with cultural inequalities.”

Touré’s perspective is narrowly focused and superficial. I think he can do better than what he presented to his audience, and more importantly, it is imperative that we advance the complicated discourse on race.

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