Tour?e Discusses Political Effects of “Browning of America”

Tour?e, an acclaimed black author, NBC contributor and New York University professor, spoke about the state of racism in America and how it has changed throughout the generations last Wednesday, February 20 in Love Auditorium. The Black Student Union brought Tour?e to campus to honor Black History Month.

Tour?e kicked off his lecture by highlighting the difference in mentality between the first election of President Obama and his recent reelection. Tour?e argued that because the electorate voted for Obama in 2008 under the presumption that he was Superman, when Americans chose to elect a flawed man in 2012, the gesture was more meaningful for the black population.

Tour?e traced past elections to show “the browning of America,” highlighting the consistently decreasing white percentage of the electorate. In support of his claim that blacks are gaining power in America, Tour?e said that there are more black babies now than there are white, and that America will be over 50 percent black and brown by 2042.

These political and demographic facts expose a shift in America in that white people can no longer get what they want. Because of this, Tour?e said, the whites must learn to share power and the Republican Party must learn to change.

“The GOP sees attempts to extend rights to people, such as blacks, women and gays, as an attempt to take away power from the white man,” said Tour?e.

There is a paradox emerging within the GOP, however. The GOP is utilizing the “southern strategy” of relying on white resentment toward blacks, and later, gays and Hispanics. Yet the GOP risks losing national power because it cannot gain those groups’ votes. The other option is to betray the party’s long history of antagonism toward these minority groups and consequently lose its core constituency. Thus, the GOP is at a crossroads in modern America.

Tour?e next measured the effect of the Obama presidency on blacks’ position in America. He noted that there was an expectation that Obama’s election would be the end of racism in America, but it is apparent that the Obama presidency does not change the everyday lives of black Americans.

“He is not a black leader. He is a leader who is black,” Tour?e said.

Instead, Tour?e attributed the current position of blacks to structural aspects of society that were put in place a while ago. A few of the conditions that Tour?e found most hurtful to blacks are substandard schools, unemployment double the rate of that for whites, minimal wealth and the greater likelihood of arrest and conviction for using drugs despite whites using drugs at the same rate.

Tour?e said that white people who benefit from white privilege are not racist. However, he did note that white privilege exists.

“Being white is a consistent advantage that helps you all the time,” Tour?e said.

Moving away from the realm of politics to the sphere of music, Tour?e showed that hip-hop artists have a history of acting as reporters, telling the public what is happening on the streets. This role was especially important in the 1980s during the War on Drugs. Tour?e claimed that the War on Drugs was ironic in that drug use was declining when the war was launched, and the crack epidemic began after, most likely a result of blacks rebelling against President Ronald Reagan.

Hip-hop music also functioned as a form of political criticism. However, while it was easy for rappers to condemn Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush, rappers faced more difficulty during the Clinton presidency. Blacks traditionally supported Clinton, yet he was actually tough on crime and perpetuated the War on Drugs. Tour?e noted that black artists certainly do not condemn Obama in their songs.

Tour?e next fielded questions about various topics, first claiming the War on Drugs as the biggest problem for black America today because it contributes to so many cyclical problems. He then transitioned into demonstrating his support for the decriminalization   of marijuana.

“Prohibition is not restricting anyone from getting quality weed at a good price. It’s only creating a situation where a lot of nonviolent offenders are being sent to jail. Millions of people, especially black men, are being criminalized for possession of marijuana and if we stopped that, it would have profound effects on black men,” Tour?e said.

Tour?e also responded to a question regarding whether Obama will focus on race-related problems in his second term. Tour?e was quick to say that Obama will not specifically cater to blacks but that he will generate policies that will inadvertently help blacks deal with problems from which they disproportionately suffer, such as immigration, Obamacare and gun control, which is the number one cause of death for blacks.

“When white America catches a cold, we catch the flu,” Tour?e said.

Before moving to the Memorial Chapel for an open dinner, Tour?e concluded the Q&A session by stressing the subtlety of modern racism.

“We live in a time where it’s more and more difficult to put your finger on what is racist,” Tour?e said.

Whereas racism was obviously present in previous generations, one often has to remind oneself that it still exists.

 “It’s not time for sit-ins or marches anymore. What would we be protesting?” Tour?e said. “We have a different struggle. We have a different time. This is where we are.”

Contact Julia Queller at

[email protected].