Visible Young Man

Colson In the NYT, a review of Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor:

Now that we’ve got a post-black president, all the rest of the post-blacks can be unapologetic as we reshape the iconography of blackness. For so long, the definition of blackness was dominated by the ’60s street-fighting militancy of the Jesses and the irreverent one-foot-out-the-ghetto angry brilliance of the Pryors and the nihilistic, unrepentantly ghetto, new-age thuggishness of the 50 Cents. A decade ago they called post-blacks Oreos because we didn’t think blackness equaled ghetto, didn’t mind having white influencers, didn’t seem full of anger about the past. We were comfortable employing blackness as a grace note rather than as our primary sound. Post-blackness sees blackness not as a dogmatic code worshiping at the altar of the hood and the struggle but as an open-source document, a trope with infinite uses.

The term began in the art world with a class of black artists who were adamant about not being labeled black artists even as their work redefined notions of blackness. Now the meme is slowly expanding into the wider consciousness. For so long we were stamped inauthentic and bullied into an inferiority complex by the harder brothers and sisters, but now it’s our turn to take center stage. Now Kanye, Questlove, Santigold, Zadie Smith and Colson Whitehead can do blackness their way without fear of being branded pseudo or incognegro.

So it’s a perfect moment for Whitehead’s memoiristic fourth novel, “Sag Harbor,” a coming-of-age story about the Colsonesque 15-year-old Benji, who wishes people would just call him Ben. He’s a Smiths-loving, Brooks Brothers-wearing son of moneyed blacks who summer in Long Island and recognize the characters on “The Cosby Show” as kindred spirits.