Touré, a journalist and host of “The Cycle” on MSNBC, came to campus on April 1 to discuss the media’s role in the ongoing battle for civil rights.
Touré is the author of “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to be Black Now” and “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon.” He was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work of Non-Fiction in 2012 for “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?”
Sponsored by the Office of Diversity, SUAAB, Meteor Theater, the School of Arts & Humanities and the Multicultural Center, the event began with an opening address on what civil rights means in today’s society, while also touching on the various protests and movements of the past that gave way to the liberation of different oppressed groups.
“This has been a critical battle in the history of America: the tension between being the great democratic nation that we think we are and the strangling power of these straight, rich, white men who have controlled this nation since the beginning,” Touré said.
He also discussed how the media —specifically television— prevented protests and civil rights violations from going unnoticed. He said television made the events covered visceral and immediate, creating a sense of severity and urgency in the viewing population.
“Television has been a key driver in all these movements because discrimination can survive in silence,” Touré said. “If we don’t shine a light on those things, they are able to persist. Silence aids and abets the status quo.”
Following Touré’s remarks, Cinematheque presented a compilation of videos from various civil rights movements. The short documentary covered the African American, Chicano, Native American, Women’s, LGBTQ and Arab Spring movements, highlighting the role the media played in giving a voice to those who, at the time, had none.
After the video, Touré sat before the audience and fielded questions.
Touré engaged the audience in a frank, open discussion about race, often touching on more current examples of civil rights protests. He briefly spoke on the events that occurred in Ferguson recently and issues the United States has had with Boko Haram and ISIS.
He often drew these topics back to the way media reframes and delivers news to the general public. For example, when the protests in Ferguson occasionally grew violent, he stressed the importance of keeping the context of the events in mind.
“Sometimes to get heard, you have to burn something down,” Touré said. “I’m not saying they should have done it, but would media have been continued to be there if it hadn’t been violent? I don’t know.”
As an example, he cited Malcolm X, who drew criticism for his militant remarks and was often compared to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Whether the instances of civil rights violations are based on race, gender, sexuality or income, Touré gave a call to action for all people to consolidate their protests and work together to eliminate injustice wherever it crops up in society.
“Civil rights, as I see it, is about protecting rights wherever they might be deprived over demography,” Touré said. “If all Americans are born with unalienable rights, then why would we allow so many people’s rights to be constrained because they happen to be black or gay or female?”