Some of My Best Friends Are Black

Some of My Best Friends Are Black

The Strange Story of Integration in America

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
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Chronicles America's troubling relationship with race through four interrelated stories: the transformation of a once-racist Birmingham school system; a Kansas City neighborhood's fight against housing discrimination; the curious racial divide of the Madison Avenue ad world; and a Louisiana Catholic parish's forty-year effort to build an integrated church.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2012
ISBN: 9780670023714
067002371X
Characteristics: xvii, 294 p. ; 24 cm

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c
CRAIGEEJ
Jan 16, 2015

it speaks volumes to white arrogance and the fact that they don't even see it .....or want to and how black people constantly chase after white acceptance a vicious circle and an informative read.

m
michi_chi
Oct 02, 2014

The cover photo could have been my classroom with me as the black face in the corner.
I found this a very enjoyable read and a well researched one. Four stories that blend together well into the theme.
No problems are solved, and in a way, it is so disheartening to see how little things have changed in some areas, but also the hopeful places where things have nudged even if only by a little. I wish I could require this reading of every person who tries to tell me that racism isn't an issue here any longer.

p
pac511
May 28, 2014

For me as a white 54year old woman who grew up in this book (childhood from 6-20 at 71st and college, just south and a bit east of the area that is written of indepth in this book) and now living in the Johnson county area just west of the Plaza, I can completely agree with all of his observations.
We as white people do not understand the life of a black person. You must live it to understand it, and I along with my brother and sister did. We were the white family that did not move out of the area because my parents could not afford it again (originally lived at 39th and highland till 1966).
With all this being said, I must tell you that I would NEVER change the area and the way that I grew up if I could now. This book spoke of how "ingeneral" a neighborhood can servive if all residents participate.
Interesting also is the fact that he barely mentions the "affluent" pockets of the black neighborhoods and yet I know for a fact that there were some at that time and trust me they did not want anything to do with any "trash" no matter what the color.

This is a very easy read and if you are from the east side or the Plaza or Johnson County you will be inlightened by this book. Then go find a 70-80year old person and talk with them about what they experienced...my mother in law was very knowledged as she was a new mother during this times in KC.

JCLKimG Aug 10, 2013

This book has several chapters about the Kansas City metro area, including Johnson County. Colby is able to discuss the issues around racism, including integration and white flight, with honesty and occasional (appropriate) humor.

crankylibrarian May 20, 2013

Maddening, shocking, frustrating and infuriating: these are a few terms that came to mind as I read Tanner Colby's terrific look at the successes and (mostly) failures of racial integration. Wisely focusing on 4 areas of American life within his personal experience, Colby probes the hypocrisies and bad decisions behind school desegregation in Alabama; redlining, blockbusting and restrictive covenants in Kansas City; "ethnic niche" advertising in New York; and racially divided parishes in Catholic New Orleans. Unlike many histories of desegregation, Colby highlights the reasons why many African Americans opposed, and continue to oppose "color blind" institutions: fear of continued white hostility yes, but also a pride in the historic black schools, neighborhoods and churches which often disappeared after the Civil Rights movement. Full of vivid anecdotes from a variety of witnesses of both races, _Some of My Best Friends_ should be read by anyone who truly wants to understand the challenges and perils involved in creating a racially equitable society.

oldhag Aug 29, 2012

I would give this book 6 stars if I could. It's laugh-out-loud funny, and tragically informative. Particularly compelling was Colby's expose of how the private real estate market was aided and abetted in housing segregation by federal government policies: "Thanks to the FHA, private developers had access to billions of dollars in nearly risk-free capital, which allowed them to buy up vast tracts of land and operate them as they saw fit, with a unilateral say on what could be built and who could live in it"; and "GI loans were simply FHA loans by another name, subject to the same redlining restrictions. When the whites of the Greatest Generation went looking for a place to call home, it was all but illegal for them to buy a home in a subdivision that didn't exclude blacks. Realtors didn't show white people anything else, because their money wasn't any good anywhere else. Black veterans, on the other hand, could use their housing vouchers only in all-black areas; even with the GI Bill, many were still denied loans". According to Colby, "The first verifiable use of explicit racial restrictions against blacks has been traced back to 1908, in Baltimore's Roland Park and in Kansas City's Country Club District". Colby quotes one "...conservative Southern Baptist Republican with a gravy-thick Alabama accent" as saying, "If you'd asked me ten years ago how many black friends I had---meaning friends, not acquaintances---I would have probably said one. Now...six? Close friends, people that eat over at my house, go to Sunday school together." The problem with that statement is that whites have always been willing to play beneficent paternalists, the real test is not how many black people have come to his house, but in how many black homes has he been a guest? Part 4 alone, entitled "Canaan", is worth the price of this book (which I intend to buy): "Under Jim Crow, [white] America made it abundantly clear that blacks would be categorically barred from nearly every civic and social institution in the country, from schools to hospitals to the Rotary Club". "By the most widely cited statistic, 93 percent of all churches in America are racially homogenous". In 1970, "Julia Richard a [black] high school senior..." reported that "When she marched in, [to Catholic Sacred Heart church]...many whites blocked the entrance to their pews, or simply got up and left. If they allowed her to sit, they'd refuse to shake her hand when offered the sign of peace". "In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a full-throated and unambiguous apology for its role in promoting slavery and Jim Crow, and some of its members have reached out and brought in black preachers to serve at white churches. The other mainline Protestant denominations have all made similar gestures." My two criticisms of the book: 1)according to Colby, "At the National Baptist Convention's annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1961...[involving the reverend] Martin Luther King, and Reverend Gardner Taylor of New York...a riot broke out among the twenty-five hundred clergymen there in the meeting hall. One preacher was trampled to death." The author should have footnoted this statement as to the identity of the victim, and the resolution of the circumstances of his death; 2) in a Louisiana parish with only one priest, but resolutely determined to have two Catholic churches, one white, one black, the idea of a "Habitat for Humanity" solution, apparently, did not arise. The parish could have employed the sweat equity of all the able-bodied parishioners to give everyone a sense of ownership, and a standoff that was officially deplored in 1964, might have been resolved much earlier, and more satisfactorily, than in 2004. The author makes no mention of whether such an idea was ever discussed.

adagarcon Jul 22, 2012

Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration, is an interesting read about a subject nobody in America wants to dive into. Instead of taking the usual route discussing overt inequality, Colby dissects the race politics through School Integration /School Busing, The Myth of Suburbia, New York's Advertising Industry and last but not least Religion-by way of the Catholic Church. A very well written informative book, with lots of historical anecdotes that should pique the interests of those who care to disregard or seem oblivious to the ever persistent color lines of Americana.

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