I came across this article and though it is only a book review, I found the article to address new concepts relating to racial identity within the past 30 years. The article from the New York Times is called the “Post Black Condition” by Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson and the book that he reviews is called “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What it Means to be black now?” by Toure.

The first thing that comes to my mind is “post-blackness”, what is it, who it entails, and when has it occurred. According to Patterson “post black condition” emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. In referencing Toure, Patterson states that “Post-blackness entails a different perspective from earlier generations’, one that takes for granted what they fought for: equal rights, integration, middle-class status, affirmative action and political power.” Toure in his book seeks to understand this perspective by interviewing 105 African Americans in which they detail their lives, how they identify themselves, their level of freedom and individuality, their interests, and how race shapes and molds their lives today.

Furthermore, African Americans in the “post-black” era have more opportunities to enter and venture into fields and occupations that they were once not allowed to enter whether it is the arts, entertainment, music, sports, and a variety of blue collar and white collar jobs. At the same time, it seems as if blacks (and other groups) are still criticized and judged for their actions aswell as their behavior. Patterson in reference to Toure made a key statement with regards to post black identity:

“Post-black identity, we learn, resides in the need to live with and transcend new and subtle but pervasive forms of racism: “Post-black does not mean ‘post-racial.’ ”

With this statement in mind, Patterson references Yale Professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander who “claims to be haunted by “a continual underestimation of my intellectual ability and capacity, and the real insidious aspect of that kind of racism is that we don’t know half the time when people are underestimating us.” Patterson goes further and says that Toure in his book brings notice to what Patterson calls “a new post-black sociological evil: counterfactual racism.”

I feel that the experience that Elizabeth Alexander shares happens quite often in popular culture . For example, Barack Obama’s abilities and qualifications as president have been questioned because he is “black” (even though he is mixed), while others have questioned his level of  “blackness”. Bernard Hopkins, a black boxer, has criticized Donovan McNabb (a black quarterback) for his level of “blackness” or “toughness”, in part because his style of play and his character does not fit a certain mold or stereotype.As someone who has always identified as black, I once had an experience in elementary school in which I was once called “White” because I did not behave like other students and because I was at the top of my class. It is cases like these that create a new racial element, one that intertwines past and present identities, preexisting stereotypes, socialization, aswell as social class into the discussion of racial identity. What is “blackness”, what is “blackness” today, what is the “post-black condition” are the some of the many questions that will have to answered in the coming years and decades.



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