I’m going to do my best to put all this as clear as possible. It sounds great in my head.
Blackness. What does it mean to be a black person in America? Is there a set of rules that one must uphold? Why should we uphold those “unwritten” rules? Is every black person in risk of losing their “black cards” for “violations”? This class has been analyzing the different definitions and ways black people express themselves and do race. Is any of the above even relevant anymore? Questions were asked on whether all black people should always be political and uplift the race or can one just live. Toure’s book is that epiphany moment that one would hope for. He eloquently states the change(s) that have happened within the black community and identity. What he, and others in the book who were interviewed, did was put the black identity in relations to time. Toure connected the shifting of meaning over the past decades. This is about blackness, but more so, in my opinion, a historiography on blackness. Within this historiography, Toure gives the history of nigger/nigga, and motherfucker; both have great symbolism in the black community. Then, Toure outlines the “main” identities of blackness, the ones that are talked about the most and policed.
What is shown is a respect for the past history, but the realization, that many don’t feel the same as those who lived during a certain time, has greatly influenced how they think about being black. Black being an interest was a very unique way of putting how some of the artists saw themselves. An interest is something one could change, like a hobby. Yet, one’s skin color can’t be changed in that same context.Santigold said that her music was black, because she is black. (pg.54) This goes back to discussion we had in class about if something is black because the artist is black or because it includes aesthetics that are traditionally associated with black folk. Having both views on blackness has enabled many of those in the book the ability to define and expand blackness.
Toure hits the nail on the head in many areas. He and his colleagues tackle racial uplift vs. individuality over time. Racial uplift was the main theme in the articles we started off reading. Your love for your race was shown through your works, acts, and your voice. Everything should have a political meaning. However, even during those times, not all agreed with Wright, but wanted to create art and and other works for entertainment. During a time when many blacks were fighting negative stereotypes, racial uplift was seen as a priority. In his interviews, Toure shows that as times changes, so has blackness. This adaptability to its atmosphere, has enabled blackness to withstand many trials. Because of this, blackness is the best way to describe Black America. It’s a broad umbrella for many strains, which include different experiences.
Toure explores how there are many ways to use blackness in life. With this, the commonality of blackness is that society never lets your forget your blackness. Whether it’s by the hands of whites or other blacks, black folk are always reminded overtly or slyly of their otherness. Yet, as black folk, Toure states that they should be free to do blackness anyway they please and from their personal experiences.
The biggest thing that comes out of having individual views on blackness is agency. Because blackness is so fluid, it has resulted in greater agency for black folk. Yes, racism is still alive, and subtle, but post-Blackness moves past that. If blackness, now, is more about living one’s individual identity instead of one collective identity, then, that forty million ways to be black is forty million ways to exert agency and influence change. I appreciate the fact that this book disturbs the notion of being one and only kind of blackness. The complexity of identity is hard to grasp, thus, is the makeup of blackness. Understanding this is the only way to expand the progress and access black folk have. Next, this understanding will decrease, hopefully, the policing of how to do race. Toure and others in the book mention how the history of America and black folk isn’t going anywhere, so holding on to it isn’t as necessary. Respecting and knowing the history is more that using old methods of doing blackness that isn’t relevant to the times. It’s, also, better than letting it limit oneself, because “black folks don’t…”.
Toure implies that blackness being undefined is okay. Regardless, of the crossover or mash up of blackness with other things, blackness has never gone away; in a world that’s color struck, it may never disappear.
Toure’s book is something everyone should read. As a black woman, this, first, felt like a how to not give a damn, but still care, guide. His talk about his shield was extremely easy to relate to, as was his vernacular. His main audience is black people. Granted, this isn’t a how to book, it reads like one. Toure gives evidence why it’s okay for blackness to be complicated. Because of the muddiness of the definitions, black folk should do blackness their way. Second, this book educates on how subtle racism is. He gives numerous accounts to back up the new face of racism. Thirdly, Toure makes the personal political. I know he’s doing blackness the way he wants to, but there is still a stance on his decision to do that. This goes back to resisting previous notions from some of the older generations, but freeing the younger generation whose blackness may not look progressive. To say reading this book hasn’t made me take another look at how I view my blackness, wouldn’t be true. This book is a challenge to anybody who says they KNOW what blackness is…Because they really have no idea.
As much as I loved all the people he’s talked with, I do wish Toure had pulled a few working class people to talk to. I don’t know why he didn’t but it would have solidified this book even more. As much as I believe many, if not all, the people interviewed, can speak on working class life styles, no one does it better than the ones still in the working class. Then, again, when you are writing a book, you only have so much room. This wish doesn’t diminish the fact that a lot of the people in the book had the rags to riches, hard work to the end journey in life. Nor does it take away any credibility from their knowledge of the working class. I was just wondering. I’ll be reading the bios on them again to make sure. Although, he may have chosen to show the diversity in the group by having those that aren’t from institutions of higher education, but still influential …I don’t know. Just thought, I’d throw that one out there, too. I have a thing for books that talk about the working class, but speak the language of the elite to the working class. Not a thing, it just irks me .I would love for many to read this, but I wonder, would other black folk, not in college, understand this?