The Color of Friendship
SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK:
The Strange Story of Integration in America.
By Tanner Colby. Viking. 294 pp. $27.95
In 1992, after a jury acquitted Los Angeles police officers who had viciously beaten a black motorist, the late Rodney King, black Angelenos rioted in protest. Afterward, President Bill Clinton diagnosed the country’s racial ills as the consequence of too few interracial friendships. Tanner Colby’s engrossing book begins with the same premise: “If we’re not talking about why black people and white people don’t hang out and play Scrabble together, we’re not talking about the problem.”
Colby, whose previous books were very successful biographies of “dead, fat comedians” (Chris Farley and John Belushi), might seem an unlikely author for such a book. He began the project after realizing during the 2008 presidential campaign that, despite his passionate support of Barack Obama, he “didn’t actually know any black people,” nor did most of his friends. The result, Some of My Best Friends Are Black, is a refreshingly honest and textured story that has much to contribute to conversations about race in America.
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Emily Bernard is an associate professor in the Department of English and the ALANA (African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American) U.S. Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Vermont. She is the editor of Some of My Best Friends: Writers on Interracial Friendships (2004) and the author of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black and White, published earlier this year.more from this author >>