My first interaction with an African American person was while I was still in diapers. I waddled up to a black army sergeant and tried to wipe his face. Being from a town with a predominantly white population I had never met an African American person before, and it would be another 16 years before I would engage with another person of color. It wasn’t until I moved into my undergraduate dorm in Rochester, NY when I began the attempt to grasp what “diversity” actually meant, but even now I don’t pretend to fully comprehend the term. So unpacking the literature by Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Touré, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, is overwhelming. However, I have been inspired by these readings to think more about my past exposure to “blackness.” My undergraduate roommate was of Puerto Rican descent. She would always tell me about how she was “talking to Dominican’s,” like it was some sort of dirty secret. She explained to me that her parents did not like the fact that she, a pretty, light-skinned woman, might end up in a relationship with a “dark-skinned Dominican.” When I heard her say these things I thought about how terrible it would have sounded coming from someone else, someone white; but because she was a person of color I dismissed it then. Thinking back now, the flagrant racism of this conversation was clearly influenced by the history of slavery, the fluidity of the definition of “blackness,” and the generational divide focusing on individuality in a post-black society.
Touré explains that each generation’s opinion on blackness is influenced by the previous one’s, just as my roommate’s family was stubborn about their definition of acceptable “blackness.” Opinions and influences of elder generations greatly influenced Richard Wright’s encounters with white people in “The Ethics of Living Jim Crowe.” Wright forged his way through society based on his experiences and the lessons he was taught by earlier generations. The readings from this week encapsulate a paradigm shift from desiring to be white, to not acting black, and to the post-blackness idea that Touré suggests is all about individuality. A person of color has to abide by rules, says Toure, about how “to live, who you’re supposed to date, how you’re supposed to operate, what kind of job you’re supposed to have, how you wear your hair,” and these rules constantly changed. Bert, from The Ways of Whtie Folks, by Langston Hughes. Bert experiences these pressures from earlier generations about how he should, act, look and talk as well; he was always told to “act right:”
“Why didn’t you act right, son? Oh-o-o!” Cora moaned. “You can’t get nothin’ from white folks if you don’t act right.”
“Act like Willie, you mean, and the rest of these cotton pickers?”
Another example from this week’s readings was John from “Of the Coming of John.” John was infuriated by the color-line, by the Jim Crow cars, for example. When he returned home to educate his community, he was forced by a white community leader to “accept the situation and teach the darkies to be faithful servants and laborers.” The message was that this was all he should teach since black people could not “reverse nature, and rule white men, and marry white women.” But today’s black generation, argues Touré, has no perfect memory of this generation. He writes that they’re tired of “wearing all that trauma” from “the warlike conditions that previous generations lived under,” and that current generations can now “use something that produced all that trauma and do something else with it,” instead of bearing it as a cross. Touré believes that the definition of “post-blackness” is directly associated with the term individualism. Touré argues that how people define themselves as black has drastically changed, and that this newfound individualism has been influenced by a shift in the “emotional distance from the past struggles.” This paradigm shift to focus on individuality is a slow process, and it may be a very long time before it influences my old roommate’s family and other families still bearing that trauma.
 Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children (Pymble, Australia: HarperCollins e-books, 1993) 4.
 Touré, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness (NY: Free Press, 2011) 24.
 Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folks (NY: Vintage Classics, 1962) 237.
 W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994) 115.
 Ibid, 115.
 Touré. 21-22.
 Ibid, 37.