In the Obama era, we’re told, racial identity is more complicated than ever. Our first black president, after all, has no Southern slaves in his bloodline—but does have a Kenyan father, a white mother, an Asian sister, an Indonesian childhood, and an African-American family in Chicago that helped him find an adult sense of belonging. Typecast him at your peril. In Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? Touré argues that black people with less exotic life stories should feel similarly free to look beyond one singular definition of identity. It’s a compelling argument that fits nicely with our polyglot times. But it also raises a question: Just when would such a limited idea of identity have ever been acceptable? It’s idiotic to argue that black people’s shared challenges ended with Obama’s victory. But it’s also dangerous to imply that identities and aspirations only became so diverse in our postmodern era. Touré, to his credit, doesn’t do this, though the shorthand version of the post-blackness meme seems to. Here’s hoping that meme becomes a lens for re-examining the past as well as a way of understanding the future.
Touré discusses his book with Jonathan Capehart at 6:30 p.m. at Busboys & Poets, 2021 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 387-POET.