Oh my dear -- Where is that country?
Some years back I made a resolution to ignore the second half of any sentence that began with the words "We are the only people who..." Almost always the next clause featured some shortcoming of the race and after years spent drenched in the backwaters of Afrocentrism (the patchouli era), I'd had my fill of black specificity."We are the only people," came to be an advance warning that I was talking to someone who probably didn't know much about any people other than (a small segment of) black ones. More subtly, an expression of the speaker's fixation on the values of a wider world they both rejected and envied.
In Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to Be Black Now (Free Press), Touré assails "self-appointed identity cops" who write "Authenticity Violations as if they were working for Internal Affairs making sure everyone does Blackness in the right way." His aim is to "destroy the idea that there is a correct or legitimate way of doing Blackness," maintaining that "if there's a right way then there must be a wrong way, and that [that] kind of thinking cuts us off from exploring the full potential of Black humanity."
Touré claims that he wants African Americans to have the freedom to be black in whatever ways they choose and that he aspires "to banish from the collective mind the bankrupt, fraudulent concept of 'authentic' Blackness." "Post-Blackness" is the label Touré deploys to describe the sensibility he champions, a "modern individualist Blackness" that enthusiastically endorses novelty and diversity, fluidity and experimentation. "Post-Blackness," he insists, "is not a box, it's an unbox. It opens the door to everything. It's open-ended and open-sourced and endlessly customizable. It's whatever you want it to be." "Post-Blackness" means, he says, that "we are [like President Barack Obama] rooted in, but not restricted by, Blackness."
What Touré and his allies seek to escape are fundamental aspects of any community: boundaries and discipline. Every community -- be it a family, firm or nation-state -- necessarily has boundaries that distinguish members from nonmembers. That boundary is a constituent element of the community's existence.
It's true that the boundaries of the collective create problems for the individual--problems that should be confronted and wrestled with. But this a human problem, and the implication that black people are in exclusive or chronic possession of that problem strikes me as wrong-headed.
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