What does it mean to be black in America now? A wide variety of scholars and deep thinkers respond in these essays on race, society, art and more.
Though the first line of this collection reads, “I should make one thing clear from the outset: this volume is not about Touré,” most of these essays either deconstruct the author’s argument in Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? (2011) or offer either an academic or personal rebuttal to that particular work. Curated by Baker (English/Vanderbilt Univ.; Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, 2008, etc.) and Simmons (Religious Studies/Univ. of Alabama; Changing the Subject: Writing Women Across the African Diaspora, 2014, etc.), the book presents a wide range of voices and opinions from people who have spent much of their careers studying America’s struggles with race and identity. The essays are all contemplative, but their scholastic nature could prove off-putting to nonacademic readers. It may depend on how readers feel about passages like this one, from “African Diasporic Blackness Out of Line” by Greg Thomas: “Beyond a propagation of self-abolition, ‘post-blackness’ must be more than ‘non-Black.’ It must actually be something in lieu of Black; and ‘African Americanism’ provides this supposed escape hatch in a five-centuries-long context of Western European racism and imperialism, at least in the mentality of the propagators of abolition or self-abolition as a new mode of neocolonial assimilationism.” The majority of the essays are in this vein, examining Touré’s argument from the frame of reference of the Black Arts Movement, American literature, globalization, social media and more. Later, things take an interesting turn with a handful of more personal essays, culminating in a pointed criticism of President Barack Obama by novelist Ishmael Reed and capped off with a poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Post-Blackness (after Wallace Stevens),” by Emily Raboteau.
A thoughtful, if not gentle, scholarly refutation of a controversial claim of a post-racial society.