Black Celebs Talk About Encounters With Racism

In an Atlantic magazine excerpt of his new book, Touré asks famous black folks about the most racist thing that ever happened to them. Their answers illustrate the subtle nature of modern racism.

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Chris Rock (Getty Images)

In an Atlantic magazine excerpt of Touré’s new book, Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to Be Black Now, the novelist and journalist says that most of the people he interviewed describe today's racism as unknowable.

There's a Chris Rock joke that is emblematic of modern racism. It's from his 2008 standup routine "Kill the Messenger," and it's about Alpine, New Jersey, the posh town where he lives in a multi-million dollar home. His neighbors include Mary J. Blige, Patrick Ewing, and Eddie Murphy. Rock says Blige, Ewing, Murphy, and he are (or were) among the best in the world at their professions, legends in their line of work. They're also the only four black homeowners in town. 

Then he says his next-door neighbor is a white dentist. "He ain't the best dentist in the world," Rock says. "He ain't going to the dental hall of fame. He's just a yank-your-tooth-out dentist." Rock spells out the point with a devastating punchline: "The black man gotta fly to get to somethin' the white man can walk to."  

He's saying that in modern America blacks can ascend to the upper class, it's possible, but they have to fight so much more to get there because white supremacy remains a tall barrier to entry ...

Read the entire excerpt at the Atlantic.

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