how to be black-baratunde thurston

“the library has this already? isn’t it brand new?”

oh yes, boyfriend to the nation-the library is fantastic. not only is it already in circulation, but i joined the queue (i guess i sound like a brit because we’re part of their commonwealth, and not because of football) before it was officially released. this was also the case for rza‘s book, btw. i literally laughed out loud many times, and loved the way that collaboration was utilized and acknowledged, all the way to the footnotes. also, i also have fond memories of boozing with my daddy-specifically the shot of beer he’d give me every night for dinner to counteract the daily cup of coffee that my mother and grandmother let me have at the grocery store. neither of them knew about the upper/downer that they were feeding their four-year-old, but such is the reality of immigrant parents that couldn’t afford to live separately during their divorce.

there are some truths that are true even if people believe otherwise. but sometimes it’s our job to say things in another way, in a funny way, in order to make the point more palatable. i witnessed a great lecture by angela davis about the missed opportunity of making police brutality a public issue in the aftermath of the henry louis gates jr. fiasco, but here is mister thurston‘s amazing way:

“Undoubtedly, incidents of a racial nature will occur on your watch, and you will be tempted and expected to comment on them. Avoid this instinct. Remain silent on the most intense racial issues. Occasionally, you can comment, but do so in a more symbolic fashion, perhaps by inviting the aggrieved parties to your home for a beverage, awkward conversation, and photo ops.” (195)


2 thoughts on “how to be black-baratunde thurston

  1. family matters:

    “She just insisted that I be part of /some/ community. The QUESTION AUTHORITY bumper sticker that would grace my lockers and notebooks from seventh through twelfth grade is one she gave me, always reminding me that just because someone has authority over me does not mean they deserve my respect. This was clearly counter to the programming she’d received in her own upbringing, and she determined to break the cycle.” (39)

    “Making that journey did not make me any blacker, but it completed a circle in my life that I hadn’t realized was broken until it was made whole again.” (124)

    and this is what i was feeling after my university-concluding trip to viet nam.

  2. preach:

    from the Black History Month tool kit:


    This one can be a struggle for many. Racism is everywhere, and it comes naturally. But it’s considered to be /extra/ offensive if you are explicitly racist toward black people during Black History Month. If nothing else, it shows a lack of discipline. If you’re serious about hating black people, prove it by delaying that hate for a few weeks. Racism is exhausting, and you could use a break. Take one! On March 1, you’ll return to peak form, fired up and ready to marginalize.” (5)


    Better yet, just watch the movie, starring National Black Friend Denzel Washington. I especially love the part where he organizes the Fruit of Islam protest outside the Harlem police station, then surprises his mother by purchasing a mansion for her in the country with all the drug money he made being a rogue cop with Ethan Hawke in Los Angeles, all while coaching a debate team at a historically black college. Most of what you need to know about black history can be gleaned from these scenes.” (7)

    “Here’s how all these benefits might play out in one setting. First, a white person brings her Black Friend to a party, adding instant cultural credibility to the event. There may be a little extra buzz in the room. Second, that white person has more latitude to speak ignorance of a racial nature by invoking the fact that she ‘has a black friend’. Innocence-by-association is a powerful defensive tactic. Depending on the type of household she is from, it may be forbidden or at least frowned upon to go hanging around with black folks. So a white person who brings her Black Friend home can enjoy the added benefit of rebelling against her parents. The Black Friend is a cultural Swiss Army Knife for many white Americans, able to perform several functions of both a stylistic and practical nature.” (81-2)

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