Touré Addresses “Racism without Racists”
Author and TV host closes out 2013 Wooster Forum series
WOOSTER, Ohio, Oct. 31, 2013 – “Lack of jobs in the black community is the source from which all other problems grow,” declared Touré, speaking at the final event in this year’s Wooster Forum last night. “A man who can’t find work has a hard time feeling purpose.” The forces behind that joblessness may not be explicitly racist, he explained, but because they have a disparate impact on people of color, the result is “racism without racists.”
The writer, culture critic, and co-host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” identified four major developments of the past half-century as the main culprits behind a black unemployment rate that is double that for whites: the impact of globalization; the movement of business and jobs from cities to suburbs; the decline of private sector unions; and skyrocketing rates of black male incarceration, which he attributed largely to the “war on drugs” begun by Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
“As an actor, Reagan understood the need for an enemy to play against. Russia was the foreign enemy, and the domestic enemy was the crack dealer,” Touré told the crowd gathered in the college’s McGaw Chapel. But the major outcome of the war on drugs, he declared, was the incarceration of vast numbers of young black men for possession or sale of marijuana, not harder drugs, which in turn led to a public perception of all young black men as criminals. It also crippled the rule of law in the inner city because, “in neighborhoods where almost everyone has been to jail, no one respects the law.”
As for what can turn the employment situation and all its related pathologies around, Touré offered few solutions. Globalization, the loss of jobs in cities, and the decline of unions are unlikely to be reversed, he said, which leaves the war on drugs and the resulting “criminalization of young black and brown men” as the only ground on which to fight.
“We can raise our voices against the war on drugs and stop it from brutalizing our communities,” Touré said, at the same time cautioning that “the decriminalization of marijuana is going to take years and years to play out” state by state.
This year’s Wooster Forum theme was “Facing Race.” Its goal was to encourage critical reflection on the concept of race from an array of perspectives and to help students understand its social, cultural, economic, legal and political impact on society.
The College of Wooster is America’s premier college for mentored undergraduate research. By working one-on-one with a faculty adviser to conceive, organize, and complete an original research project, written work, performance or art exhibit, every Wooster student develops independent judgment, analytical ability, creativity, project-management and time-management skills, and strong written and oral communication skills. Founded in 1866, the college enrolls approximately 2,000 students.