Being Black in America has always been pretty damn complicated. First, there was that slavery thing. Then…well, you know the story. Even now in the supposedly “post-racial age” where our president is black, things can get cloudy. Luckily, I’ve found not one, but two books that attempt to help make it less complicated.
Last fall, former BET host and journalist Toure released the provocatively titled “Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness.” The premise of the book being that there is no correct way to be Black. He interviews many Blacks from various spectrums of society about their experience as Black Americans as well as his own personal anecdotes. The book gets repetitive every now and then, but just when you’re ready to put it down, you come across interestingly revealing areas like an in-depth analysis of The Chapelle Show and an awkward moment involving the author’s infant son and watermelon. One of the things that struck me was the idea that so much of what we consider “Blackness” to mean was born out of the fear of the “White Gaze.” Simply put, black people have spent so much time worrying about what white people think, that we have literally let that define who we are and what we do. This concept definitely hit home with me.
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter, I’d definitely recommend #How To Be Black, by Baratunde Thurston. The comedian and founder of Jack and Jill Politics, toes the line between funny and thought provoking in 251 entertaining pages. Thurston uses his life story-growing up in D.C. during the crack area, trying to fit in at a private high school and his time at Harvard, as well as other stories to examine modern life for black people. The satirical self-help book will make you laugh and think from cover to cover with chapters such as “Do You Know What An Oreo Is?”, “How to Be The Black Friend”, “How To Be The Black Employee” and many others. The thing I love about this book is his transparency. In one chapter, Thurston reveals that he only has six memories of his father who died as a result of gun violence when he was still a child. He even manages to make it (tragically) funny. Genius!
Both books were interesting and relatively fast reads. But if I had to choose one, How To Be Black would be the first one off the shelf.
Missed my last post? Forever. Forever-Ever. Forever-Ever?