I consume MSNBC 24/7, with brief breaks for Scandal, but I’ve often complained that the network doesn’t have a vested interest in reaching the millennial electorate. This issue was addressed with the introduction of “The Cycle,” an afternoon program featuring four pop culture and political pundits trading jabs on issues relevant to Generation Y.

One of those commentators is Touré, a hip-hop fanatic who rose to prominence in the Village Voice-dominated 1990s. He has leveraged his beautifully-crafted celeb profiles into bestselling books, a TIME column and pioneering positions as CNN’s first pop-culture correspondent and the host of Fuse’s Hip-Hop Shop. The afro-clad wordsmith, who has shot hoops with Prince and wrote a provocative “I Hate Mary J. Blige” essay, is often tapped to provide the “black” perspective on social issues for cable news networks. He even debated the pros and cons of Tyler Perry on CNN.

His distinctive ability to combine wittiness with wisdom has made his entertainment value inextricable to his brand, so I wasn’t surprised when he was hired to start in the afternoons alongside S.E. Cupp (a Republican that I adore), Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki. On a network where Afro-Americans – sans Tamron Hall and Melissa Harris-Perry – are often relegated to guest spots, it was exciting to witness Touré take a seat on an MSNBC set where his name is in the opening credits.

As a 23-year-old writer with huge aspirations, Touré represents the success that I strive to attain. But I’m beginning to realize that most other black folks aren’t thrilled about his fame and aren’t ardent admirers of his work. The black twiterati have blasted him for maintaining a “blocked” list, a place he’s reserved for Twitter commentators that disagree with him. But it doesn’t end there.

Boyce D. Watkins, Ph.D., an author, political analyst and academic with several esteemed scholarship appointments blasted Touré in an op-ed where he refers to him as the “Kim Kardashian of social commentary.” His points include:

“Touré of MSNBC is the man who has every intelligent black person in America wondering why he’s on TV, myself included. There are no credentials in his background which lead you to believe that he should be defining the direction of national thought on serious political issues…”

…and it continues…

“Touré, on the other hand, offers the kind of empty insights that make you wonder what the 23-year old television producer was thinking when she booked him to discuss the intricacies of African American politics. The man who hunts for his next sound bite like a teenage girl trying to find the coolest Coach purse doesn’t seem to know how to make his remarks without saying something that appears to be flat-out stupid.  Some might even consider him to be a simple-minded clown.”

There was a frenzied response to Dr. Watkins’ piece. A lot of intellectual black folks rejoiced. I am not one of them.

Outside of the blatant illogical complaints that Dr. Watkins lodges against Touré, including an attempt to discredit his perspective because he doesn’t have a political science background and unjustly lumping him into the same category as a woman famous for fame’s sake, what’s most troubling is Dr. Watkin’s insistence that we should condemn Touré instead of celebrating him. Rather than presenting a both/and argument, where we can criticize and uplift Touré, Dr. Watkins is debating the need of an either/or. You can either love or hate Touré; there is no middle ground for moderates.

But like Oprah, Condoleeza Rice, Whitney Houston before Bobby Brown and the host of other African-Americans embattled with this same struggle, the subliminal message in Dr. Watkin’s essay is that Touré simply isn’t black enough to be considered a grio for our community.

At least Touré was expecting it. In fact, he’s accustomed to being ousted to the role of the outlier among blacks. In “A Funky Fresh Talented Tenth,” an essay from his 2006 collection, Never Drank the Koolaid, he writes that,

“…I breezed in the classroom … and struggled with my Black classmates. I pledged a White fraternity. That’s when the Whisper started.

The Whisper clung quietly to my shadow through sophomore year when I began actively courting Black friends and became a Black-studies major and junior year when I moved into the Black house. One night at the Black house, after a party, a stupid argument turned hot. And someone, finally, stated The Whisper. ‘Shut up Toure,’ it went. ‘You ain’t Black.’

It was a searing epiphany. Years later, I understood the flimsyness [sic] of that so-called spear, the ease with which almost anyone at anytime could be stabbed with a you-ain’t-Black for any number of offenses—where you live, who you love, what you think, how you walk. But still, that day there was some truth in it. There’s some truth in it now.”

This consistent characterizing of some of us as “black enough” while others are relegated to the outskirts of predetermined blackness is an issue that will continue to plague us as long as we continue to perpetuate it. The fact that Condoleeza Rice, in all of her controversial Republican glory, ain’t made it the promised black land, but Louis Farrakhan is the Holy Grail, is backward Aryan Nation ideology. We are attempting to purify our race by casting out those we have deemed not black enough to be representative of our collective. Our island is diverse and grand enough to include Herman Cain and Malcolm X, Flavor Flav and Barack Obama.

This “voted off the black island” concept is most caricatured in Dave Chapelle’s racial draft, where ethnicities were given the option to trade their least-desired people in favor of those that more identified with their culture. However, life isn’t Comedy Central parodies and the requirements for paradigmatic “blackness” are sketchy at best. If our oppressors instituted the one-drop rule to exclude even those unwilling to self-identify as African-Americans, what constitutes inclusion in our era?

Now, does Touré chase sound bites? Yes. Did I cringe at his “niggerization” comment? Yes. He is flawed as we all are. Though I’m all for pointing out the faults of others if it is constructive and meant to stimulate growth, I think it’s high time that we stop shunning other black folks.

  • Yb

    Sorry. I can’t stand Toure “enslaved black women benefitted from being raped”, “Gwenith Paltrow has the right to say nigger” “White female rappers are pioneering rap for women” Neblett.

    Every critic of him is sound and justifable.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    If someone, who seeks the spotlight, says things on multiple occasions that
    do harm to the collective, then that collective should absolutely shun him.

    As for Toure, I haven’t heard many people say he’s not Black enough, I have heard plenty of people say he’s an idiot. And I agree, I think he’s an idiot as well. In fact at this point I don’t even take him seriously enough to find him offensive.

    When he made his comments about Black women, during enslavement in the U.S., using their femininity to gain favor with ‘master’ I realized then that he didn’t have the intellect to comment on serious topics.

    He should stick to commenting on non-serious pop culture type topics.

  • steve

    Could not disagree with you more, everything that Dr Watkins said about toure is absolutely true, it not that toure is not black enough, its the fact that toure like to feel he know everything of the black experience and somehow should almost be a spokesman on “how we feel”. that what turn people off about him .

    Toure analysis is often simple minded this is why people like are toure is are often picked over more intelligent people like dr watkins by the national media. if you goal is to be like toure is based just on his socalled “fame” you should do some soul searching

  • African Mami


    “He should stick to commenting on non-serious pop culture type topics.”


  • cupcakes and shiraz

    I agree. I was pretty much done with Toure when he said that black women benefited from slavery.

  • African Mami

    I’m sorry, but his political commentary is akin to Beyonce hosting a show geared towards discussing foreign policy. You drew a blank right? So do most folks with his pc. [I apologize to Bey fans in advance, she was the only that came to mind]

    Toure, is super dope or should I say gifted with pop commentary!! Anything but, I think he needs to challenge himself more.

  • SS25

    Toure doesn’t know anything about black culture. He’s one of those I read about it types. The fact that he gets paid to speak about it is really disturbing.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Lmao@your avatar. Stop it, AM!

  • African Mami

    baby girl, I’m paying homage to Wyclef’s showstopping body!! :)

  • Nic

    This writer is way off base. Criticism of Condoleeza Rice isn’t based on her “not being black enough.” How stupid. No one has an issue with Barack or Michelle Obama’s blackness (in fact their blackness is frequently used to characterize both of them as unsuitable and undeserving of the success that they have had) and a lot of people who can’t stand Condoleeza Rice have the same kind of academic credentials as her (myself included).

    What people take issue with is the fact that she aligns herself with politicians and a political party that actively promotes policies that persecute people of her gender and her race, and the fact that she used her position and credibility to repeat their lies about Iraq among other things. She is part of a party that courts racists and uses racism, both overt and dog whistles, to incite and inflame people to join their cause. And she does that as a woman who LIVED through some very violent moments of the Civil Rights movement, and was in fact acquaintances with the four little girls who were blown up by white racists who didn’t think that she, they, and the rest of us deserved equal rights. It makes NO sense to me how a black person who lived through that kind of violence would align herself with those same people. There are Republican rallies that she couldn’t even safely appear in as a black woman.

    I’ve never heard anything about Oprah’s blackness being questioned. She is a black woman from Mississippi, born poor and to unmarried parents, and despite her billions and popularity with white women, she hasn’t become any less black, and I’ve never seen her criticized for anything other than perhaps not using her influence to address racial issues, although we should not forget how much support she threw behind Obama 4 years ago, and I cannot believe that being racial and chronological peers had no influence on her decision to put all that she had behind promoting him.

    I feel as though there are a lot of young, naive, fairly ignorant (lacking in life experience) people, including this writer, who lack the perspective to be able to comprehend that criticism of a seemingly well-educated black person is not an attack on that person’s blackness. We aren’t as rare as all that. It’s not about jealousy (and Whitney Houston was not some refined princess before she was with Bobby Brown). It is the same lazy argument that is used when people criticize women and people scream misogyny. Some of those people will make that claim, but they are derailing us regarding the real issue.

    When you want to right an editorial, do your homework, and do not made facile arguments that aren’t supported by facts. There are lots of well-educated, well-heeled black people in the public eye who are embraced by the black community. The point is that Toure is for example, no Melissa Harris Perry, who is a much better person to ask about political and historical issues. Using people like Toure as a talking-head for serious black issues is exactly what allows non-blacks believe that we are simple and uneducated.

    We should criticize Toure, and the way he is injected into discussions that he is not qualified to participate in. And we should criticize the way that Condoleeza Rice signed off on a decade of unnecessary deaths and other atrocities that have resulted from our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they remain as black as ever even when we call them out.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “As for Toure, I haven’t heard many people say he’s not Black enough”

    he is not black enough. anytime a ‘black’ person gets on the set, they have already been vetted to be ‘safe’ to white sensibilities.

  • Sweetles

    Toure is an idiot. There I said it. Whenever he speaks I cringe, and the first time I saw him in TIME magazine, I considered cancelling my subscription. He needs to disappear.

  • http://AirInDanYell.tumblr.com Erin

    There’s a reason why several people don’t like Toure. I tried following him on Twitter and eventually had to unfollow him because I couldn’t take his arrogance. I think he tries so hard to fit in, but doesn’t try hard enough, and then on the same token he runs away from trying to fit into the mold of “being Black”, whatever that even means. Simply speaking he seems fake… like one of those people that talks just to hear themselves do it, someone that has to be right about everything, even when they’re wrong. I can see how he would rub people the wrong way, and he makes it seem like if you disagree with him, something just HAS to be wrong with you, instead of him being the common denominator of why people dislike him so much. You’re on your own with this article.

  • African Mami

    Church! Thank you for your articulation. *doing a praise jig*!!


  • http://gravatar.com/amused0472 amused0472

    I was a year behind Toure in college. I still find it amazing he is where he is today and that he is a pundit about black culture. I can’t really take him seriously even 20 years later. But, he is an astute business man even if you can’t reconcile the things that come out of his mouth.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “It makes NO sense to me how a black person who lived through that kind of violence would align herself with those same people”

    see : stockholm syndrome

  • Anthony

    The author adores S.E. Cupp, of course Toure is black enough for her! I think got the gig because he is young and handsome more than anything else.

  • Really?

    I’m a moderate social conservative and hate these blackerthanthous who think you have to hate whites and be militant to be pro black. Always think critically for yourself. Anyone who thinks SOME probably most black slave women didn’t develop some type attachment to their slave owners after sex and having his kids is delusional. We’ve seen kidnapped white girls develop these same type of emotions. It’s no different and doesn’t make slavery any less tragic. Let’s face it. All of these slave women didn’t resist Massa every time they had sex. How can 4 or 5 people control a 100 or a 1,000 Men and women slaves? Some of the slaves capitulated out of survival instincts and some were suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, or capture-bonding, “a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them.”

    Now, with that being said Toure does’nt deserve to be the “voice of young blacks.” Simply because he’s just not likeable. He comes off as a black guy trying to act like a white guy…. a mousy white guy. No one likes nor respects guys like that. Whites nor blacks. Am I the only one who can tell his co-anchors don’t like him?

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    “I feel as though there are a lot of young, naive, fairly ignorant (lacking in life experience) people, including this writer, who lack the perspective to be able to comprehend that criticism of a seemingly well-educated black person is not an attack on that person’s blackness”

    I also have no idea where the original author got this idea from — it’s not present in anything she cited.

    Something’s happening with the younger generation of Blacks in America, whether American Blacks or diaspora.

    One of the bedrocks of American culture is to erode peoples’ moorings to reality, particularly history, ethnic identity, dissent, or doctrines that resist the status quo. As capitalism losing any moral hindrances or barriers, this incapacity to think is becoming virulent: like the original author, people quite literally cannot comprehend arguments that they haven’t heard before, or that do not fit into a prevailing, conformist ideology.

    I’ve noticed that many people — usually younger people — wind up translating an argument or idea into something they HAVE heard before and do NOT like, and then wind up arguing against THAT argument.

    It’s worse than a straw man or red herring or any other fallacy of logic, because others become a mob and prop up the erroneous translation!

    I don’t know why this is happening or where it’s coming from, but I suspect it results from mass communications and marketing and consumerism, which discourage thought in favor of reflex and emotions.

    Also, they tend to parrot ideas that are acceptable to the majority of Whites, without realizing how White supremacy manipulates discourse and silences dissent.

    These ideas — quite literally — don’t come from them. It’s a thought virus. They do address reality, but assimilate into a consensus, which happens to be White supremacist (in other words, even though Toure has made repeated racist, sexist comments about Black women in particular, any criticism of his ideas is the result of envy of a model minority by Blacks who are pathological)…

  • athene

    Beautifully stated! This article is just plain silly for all the reasons you point out.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    um, whose side are you on?

  • Mademoiselle

    “SOME probably most black slave women” developed emotional attachments to their masters? Are you kidding? You honestly think that could’ve been reality when we’re JUST recently starting to champion interracial relationships? You really think black women would’ve marched along side black men for civil rights if that were the case? You really think this many dark-skinned black people would still be walking around if “SOME probably most black slave women” developed some type of empathy for the people that degraded them for centuries? You might want to revisit the logic in your argument because I’m not able to connect the same dots you did and come up with the same picture.

  • Joy

    I don’t like Toure because he’s corny, and phoney as hell to me. His niggerization comment was off the chain (actually I was embarrassed). I do however love the guy that has a segment on Huffington Post Live (his name escapes me)…. he’s a down to earth brother. I’m not a Repubican but I love Condi Rice. I mean who wouldn’t like this highly intelligent black woman (politics aside). Ive never seen The Cycle. Hopefully I can check it out online

  • Joy

    Yb: Did Toure actually say that enslaved black women benefited from being raped? Wow! I/ve never liked him; and this comment about rape cements why

  • Joy

    “I feel as though there are a lot of young, naive, fairly ignorant (lacking in life experience) people, including this writer, who lack the perspective to be able to comprehend that criticism of a seemingly well-educated black person is not an attack on that person’s blackness” Bravo…Thanks…well put! The naivete, and lack of life experience on a broad scale of (some) young people is definitely a factor in their way of thinking

  • Joy

    Erin: You summed Toure up in a nutshell. How he got the job at Time, at MSNBC, and as a guest commentator on other shows is beyond me. He must know somebody…I mean reeeally know somebody

  • Joy

    Anthony young he is. Handsome is debatable.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val


    You said a lot. And I agree with your observations. I think the reason for this is based in poor education. Students aren’t taught to anglicize logically, rather they are taught to learn by rote and not to even really consider what they are learning.

    So once in the real world they don’t know how to logically dissect what’s being said to them. Nor do they know how to make any arguments based on logic or even basic common sense.

    And it’s not just Blacks, all Americans are victims of this.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Sorry, anglicize should be analyze.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    They didn’t have sex, they were RAPED by those White men, there is a huge difference. You say others can’t think critically but maybe it’s you that isn’t able to think critically. So sad.

  • http://gravatar.com/libpatriot GeekMommaRants

    This ill-placed transference is found in religious commitment ad worship in our community and no where, I mean, no where else!

    An poor attempt at logic using low-energy ego-based thinking.

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle

    Hey Joy,

    I think you’re talking about Marc Lamont Hill (re: brotha on the HuffPo).

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle

    ” I think got the gig because he is young and handsome more than anything else.”

    No. That ain’t it either.

  • R2G2

    This was interesting but my issues with Toure have nothing to do with his blackness and everything to do with his shoddy intellectualism. He has absolutely written great things but the bulk of the body of his work frustrates me to no end because his thinking tends to be narrow and simplistic.

  • Perspective

    I think all you women disagreeing with “Really?” need to go over there on Utube and listen to Tariq Nasheed’s video named Negro Bed Wench.

    Wait for the line “YOU’RE MESSING IT UP FOR ME!”

  • Rue

    I stoped paying attention at “I adore SE Cupp”. This chick is ground zero in the fox news method of getting semi smart women to dress like hoes and spew male chauvinistic BS. This is a woman who says Ann Romney should be applauded because she latched on to a rich fella, read the news with her legs firmly attached to the top of the desk for men to lear at, wears glasses to epitomize the hot nerd fantasy, hates atheists tho she is one.

  • Really?

    Obviously, I was talking about the slave women who were the concubines and bore the slave owners kids not all black slave women. I see emotions have taken over and some of you missed most of what I wrote. Did you all miss the part where I said “It doesn’t make slavery any less tragic” or the part where I gave the definition of Stockholm Syndrome, or capture-bonding, which is exactly what was going on on a lot of those plantations. Stockholm Syndrome: “a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them.” Harriet Tubman even spoke about it when she said; “I freed thousands of slaves; I could have freed more if they knew they were slaves.”

    I’m still waiting for someone to logically tell me how 4 or 5 whites controlled 100 to 1,000 black slaves on a plantation. We know in a lot of cases it takes 4 or 5 white men to subdue 1 black man. I’d respect some of these comment more if you just said you didn’t want to talk about it.

  • Lola

    Toure is biracial men that was raised by his white mother, so we know how he views black women. And he is married to a non-black women.

  • justanotheropinion

    If Toure is the voice of ‘Black America’, I take back my membership.

  • Fuchsia

    Toure’ is alright with me, I guess I never gave his blackness much thought before, but his lack there of suits him for the show. Then again, I’m not “black enough” either. We Millennials pretty much grew up in an era where the debate about whether or not someone is black enough is somehow an actual “thing”. We can go from suburban “Clueless” valley girls to reppin thug life “F” the world Tupac style in 2.5 seconds without giving it much thought. The generational gap between us and the Dr. Boyce’s of the world is getting bigger everyday. So who really cares what he thinks anyway – wit his hatin azz.

    SN: I never noticed that all his co-hosts don’t like him. BUT they definitely all roll their eyes at S.E. Cupp a lot…

  • Careful thinker

    I wonder how Harriet Tubman was able to get female slaves to leave with her if most black female slaves felt that way. That was very dumb logic

  • http://justeaglance.blogspot.co.uk/ JusteSunshine

    Is there a link to Toure’s “I Hate Mary J. Blige” essay? I would really like to read it. My initial Google search didn’t yield any results.


  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    it’s an essay in his book “Never Drank the Kool Aid” You may be able to read an excerpt on google books

  • black_feminist

    @ Collete, I think you are hitting on something very important and accurate here. You are right – this writer provides absolutely no evidence that Toure’s lack of “blackness” is the reason that he is criticized. And she fails to really intellectually engage any of stated criticisms of Toure by Watkins or others. It is quite bizarre!

    “I’ve noticed that many people — usually younger people — wind up translating an argument or idea into something they HAVE heard before and do NOT like, and then wind up arguing against THAT argument.”

    Yes! I am witnessing this often too! I think that pundits and politicians will do this deliberately and strategically. But, like you, I hear many younger people doing it too, but without being aware of their failed logic. I believe it has to do with the poor quality of public discourse in mass media, that reduce complex ideas into sound bites and relentlessly rehash the same arguments. Sad.

  • Downsouth Transplant

    @ Britni, is it that he knows where the bodies are for a few execs so to speak?

  • Michirenee

    *President Barack Obama. Smh at the disrespect..

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