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Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America Hardcover – July 5, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Who would expect a coauthor of two Saturday Night Live alumni biographies (The Chris Farley Show; Belushi) to pen a thoughtful, judicious, yet provocative social history of American race relations? Evenhanded, felicitously written, and animated by numerous interviews, Colby's book is a pleasure..." -- Library Journal 

"Pointing out the shortfalls of court-ordered busing, affirmative action, and other well-intentioned programs, Colby's charming and surprisingly funny book shows us both how far we've come in bridging the racial divide and how far we've yet to go." -- Publisher's Weekly

"With depressing persuasiveness, the author argues that we haven't achieved racial integration, because, well, we don't really want to. ...the author's personal voice is compelling and his thesis is most disturbing. Recommended reading for anyone who still thinks we live in a post-racial America." -- Kirkus

"Colby, emerging from the "comedians who died young" pigeonhole that he had made for himself... finds a new way into a national discussion, which is so cluttered at this point that it can be difficult to find the floor. His refreshing angle is based in aw-shucks honesty and an earnest humor..."  -- The Daily Beast

"Kansas City residents who are proud of their metropolis might wish Tanner Colby had never written Some of My Best Friends are Black, despite the book's supurb qualities." -- The Kansas City Star

From the Back Cover

"I've often thought that the issue of race has been more than adequately dealt with by America's people of color and that it was finally white people's turn to engage with the uncomfortable subject if we were to move forward together as a nation. In Some of My Best Friends Are Black, Tanner Colby bravely and ably accepts the challenge. This book taught me unexpected and valuable lessons about my country, my people, and myself. What can a white guy named Tanner teach a black guy named Baratunde about race in America? Turns out the answer is 'plenty.'" -- Baratunde Thurston, author of How to be Black

"In weaving together the personal narratives (including his own) of "the Children of White  Flight" and "the Children of the Dream" Tanner Colby has crafted a powerful piece of social commentary and contemporary history. Hugely readable, quirky, and incredibly smart, Some of my Best Friends Are Black presents four unforgettable smaller stories to tell the big story of race in today's America." -- Tim Naftali, author of George H.W. Bush and director emeritus of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

"Irony, surprise, virtue, and hustling are always the interwoven story of ethnic troubles in America. Tanner Colby lets us see that, however many advances have been accomplished, the unfamiliar styles of those who intend to do well--along with those who inevitably pollute any area with short-sighted economic dreams--inevitably lead to a universal conclusion: "Mistakes were made." The story of how and why this happened is what gives this book something special beyond the usual sentimentality imposed on human events, above and below." -- Stanley Crouch, author of Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (July 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002371X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023714
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tanner Colby is the author of Belushi: A Biography and the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Like many white liberals, Tanner Colby joined in with African Americans around the country, celebrating the election of "pretty much the awesomest guy to run for president in my lifetime, Barack Obama." However, as he looked around the room and around his life, he realized that he didn't have any black friends. This was the case with almost all of the white people he talked to. So he set out to write this book, exploring race in his own background and in American life. As he looked at the changing legal landscape, he realized that while under Jim Crow, the color line was kept in place with "terrorism, fear, and deliberate, purposeful discrimination," today life is "engineered in such a way that the problems of race rarely intrude on you personally. . . . You can be white and enjoy the same isolation and exclusivity without having to do anything."

For Colby, like many late 20th-century Americans, the story of race starts with forced integration of schools and the busing that made integration possible. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, which Martin Luther King, Jr., called the most segregated city in America. All over the South, school districts resisted integration. Breakaway school districts in white parts of town arose, as did, later, a huge number of private schools. White flight from school districts and from city cores let to even more segregation, making busing and forced integration more expensive and less practical, and, most tragically, led to the closing of many majority black high schools that had enjoyed success with black administrators, black teachers, and black students.

And the dream of integration?
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Format: Paperback
Cut to the Chase:
Generally well written and interesting, this book is half-history, half-narrative: it starts really with the idea of how busing came about, takes us through White Flight, and quickly brings us to modern day, where we are more equal… but still not truly integrated. While the subject matter is interesting and Colby’s writing is clear, the book sometimes meanders into interviews and narratives in a way that makes you lose forward momentum. Despite being very interested in the topic and the book in general, I put it down several times, and found myself skimming near the end…

Greater Detail:
Perhaps one of the most interesting sections to me was the introduction, or rather, how Tanner Colby went from writing about Chris Farley to realizing he’d been typecast already, and wanted a new project to sink his teeth into. He was an Obama supporter who realized that, despite the fact that we were on the eve of electing our first black president, he really had no black friends… he pitched the idea and a book was born.

He goes back to his hometown, talks about Vestavia, Oxmoor, and the black kids he went to school with — he interviews one of his more successful classmates, a black girl who was taunted more by her black peers than her white classmates (and accused of being an “Oreo”), and later, interviews students currently attending his alma mater. One of the funnier bits is when a white student tries to explain what it’s like; I’ll give you the sample point:

I have a couple black friends, but, like, I know a lot of people in the school? I kind of feel like… like, not politically — I don’t know how you’d say it — but having, like, right now, especially in this school, if you have a black person on a team, it’s like… bonus points?
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you think the issues raised in this book are history, read the article "Stop pretending racism is over" on the Opinion page of the July 14, 2012 Boston Globe. It is written by a black Harvard student who was running to catch a bus and was verbally abused by four strangers. Mr. Colby's book explores segregation and integration in four areas: school, housing, advertising and church. His style of writing makes this serious subject eminently readable. His keen wit shines throughout. This book is a must read for everyone. Don't skip the Preface.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Anybody tells you that this school didn't break off to try and stay all white is lyin' through their teeth." -Vestavia Hills Principal Cas McWaters. As a resident of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, to read that admission from someone in a position of authority within the Vestavia Hills school system was worth the price of this book. Hats off to Principal McWaters for his candor and Tanner Colby for a well written book.

The first chapter of this book covers the story of Vestavia Hills as it relates to its schools and the issue of race. Since Colby graduated from Vestavia Hills High School, it is not only a historical account but also a personal journey of discovery. At times blunt, but not condemning, the book explores the perspectives of both blacks and whites involved in this piece of history. It is a sad story, but at the same time encouraging because it shows how we are now not what we were then. Most encouraging to me, is Mr. McWaters' candor and cooperation with the author. All too often, we have been unwilling to speak honestly about these issues.

I am limiting my comments to the first chapter as I want to encourage Vestavians and people who live in the Birmingham, Alabama area to read this book. It should be required reading for all Vestavia Hills High School students in my humble opinion.
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