What does it mean to be black in America today?

Touré, a television personality, writer and cultural critic, addressed this question before an audience of nearly 50 students and faculty members at the Johnson Center Bistro during a keynote speech sponsored by George Mason University’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education for Black History Month.

Touré primarily based the keynote speech upon his 2011 book “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?”

“The book talks about the rise of the 21st century African-American community,” said organizational administration major James Williams.

Students in attendance were familiar with Touré’s work.

“I read his articles in The New York Times,” Williams said.

“I’ve seen him on TV,” said communication major Meghann Patterson.

During the first half of his speech, Touré examined the implications of living in a post-racial society.

“Post-racial means whatever you want it to mean. There is no fixed idea of what post-racial means,” Touré said. “Racism still affects our world a great deal.”

Touré explained that contemporary racism is more subtle and nuanced than the racism of the past.

“The racism our parents experienced was obvious,” Touré said. “Now, it’s like fog. We can’t see it. We can’t grab it. It’s harder to quantify.”

Elaborating upon this idea, Touré mentioned that he interviewed 105 luminaries for his book and asked about the most racist incident that each had experienced. He noted that the most common response was that the answer is unknowable, referring to how racist decisions can be privately made behind a person’s back.

Touré drew upon his professional experience as a journalist for anecdotes. For example, he spoke about interviewing Kanye West at his home.

Touré also described how he had to prove to his editors at Rolling Stone that not only could he write about hip-hop artists, but also about other entertainers, such as Eric Clapton and Tori Amos, who represent other genres.

An important theme of Touré’s speech was that African-Americans should not hold themselves back by worrying about what whites think.

“We need to get out of worrying about what white people are thinking of us,” Touré said.

Throughout his speech, Touré conveyed a laid-back, audience-friendly demeanor.

“I liked that he was very opinionated,” said public health major Abena Dakwahene . “He was very real.”

Touré’s approachability and openness were even more evident during the hourlong Q-and-A session which followed.

“I want to talk with you guys about anything,” Touré said. “Whatever you want to get into is fair game.”

Students were eager to ask Touré about contemporary hip-hop culture. For example, students asked Touré if he thinks rapper Nicki Minaj is real or a gimmick.

“I think she’s a poor rapper who uses bad metaphors. She can’t even rhyme,” said Touré, receiving much audience applause. “She bothers me tremendously. It’s a lesser standard of hip-hop.”

Other students inquired about the future of post-blackness.

“I don’t want to lose ‘blackness,’” Touré said. “It’s a crisis for us and for America.”

Students also wondered whether Black Entertainment Television offers a proper portrayal of African-Americans.

“No,” Touré said. “BET was never good. It is simplistic and silly.”

Touré asserted that BET’s programs feature black people acting like buffoons.

“As long as we reward buffoonery, that’s what we’ll get,” Touré said.

Other questions addressed how society can become better informed about African-American culture and deal with whether black America is being disintegrated.

Mason students enjoyed listening to Touré’s speech.

“I was surprised by how bluntly honest he is,” said communication major Jasmine Smith. “I would definitely attend more events like this.”

“He didn’t sugarcoat things,” said health care administration major Menna Suraphel. “I appreciated that.”

Students also found Touré’s speech somewhat controversial.

“I could feel the tension in the air,” said communication major Rasheed Parker.

Faculty members enjoyed Touré’s speech as well.

“I appreciated Touré’s directness and honesty,” said Rebecca Walter, associate director at the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education. “He asked black folks to stop worrying about what whites think. He did great.”

Walter emphasized that all events sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education benefit everyone.

“As a white person, I would encourage other white people to attend,” Walter said. “I hope to see more white people at future events.”

After the speech, Touré sold and autographed copies of his latest book.