Some of My Best Friends Are Black

Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby

E 184 .A1 C537 2012

“Tanner Colby woke up one day and realized that he didn’t know any black people – his friends, former classmates, coworkers, acquaintances, just about everyone he knew and interacted with was white. And this lopsided state of affairs, as he soon discovered, was hardly unique. Pressing those friends and coworkers about their own lives, he found the same thing to be true again and again: even with a black president in the White House, and despite a half century’s passage since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, true integration has made few inroads into many Americans’ lives.

Curious, Colby set out to learn exactly why that was. What he found was the strange story of race in post-civil rights America, a world in which segregation never really died but was simply transformed. Some of My Best Friends Are Black follows four stories that show how the strict legal barriers of Jim Crow came to be replaced by social mores and economic policies that endeavored to maintain a separate and unequal status quo: keeping the races apart, fueling suspicion between them, and enhancing the wealth and status of those who continue to profit from a divided America.

Starting with the clash over school busing at his own white-flight high school in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, Colby then went on to Kansas City, Missouri, where the segregated city planning of a wealthy real estate mogul gave birth to a century of racist federal housing policy. He followed that with a look into the troubled history of affirmative action in New York’s advertising industry, in which he was once employed. From there, he traveled all the way down to the swamps of southern Louisiana, where Jim Crow split the Catholic Church in two – giving rise to “the most segregated hour in America” – and where one small town decided that the only way to heal itself was to put its divided churches back together again.

Written with a boundless curiosity and a biting sense of humor, Some of My Best Friends Are Black offers a profoundly honest portrait of race in America. Though it tackles the larger political and economic issues of race, it is also a history of the human heart and mind. It weaves together the personal, intimate stories of everyday people, black and white, showing how far we have come in our journey to leave mistrust and anger behind – and how far all of us have left to go.” – publisher description

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