The Black friend On being a better white person

Frederick Joseph

Book - 2020

Frederick Joseph call up race-related anecdotes from his past, explaining why they were hurtful and how he might handle things now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, "reverse racism" to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former "token Black kid" who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. -- adapted from inside front ja...cket flap.

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Young adult nonfiction
Informational works
Sommerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press 2020.
Main Author
Frederick Joseph (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xviii, 254 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographic references (pages 245-247) and index.
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. We Want You to See Race
  • 2. We Can Enjoy Ed Sheeran, BTS, and Cardi B
  • 3. Certain Things Are Racist, Even If You Don't Know It
  • 4. You Could at Least Try to Pronounce My Name Correctly
  • 5. This Isn't a Fad; This Is My Culture
  • 6. So Your Friend Is Racist. What Should You Do?
  • 7. No, You Can't. No, You Shouldn't. And Don't Ask That.
  • 8. No, I Didn't Get Here by Affirmative Action (and If I Did, So What?)
  • 9. Let's Not Do Oppression Olympics
  • 10. We Don't Care What Your Black, Brown, or Asian Friend Said Was Okay (F.U.B.U.)
  • In the End: We Don't Need Allies; We Need Accomplices
  • An Encyclopedia of Racism
  • People and Things to Know
  • The Black Friend Playlist
  • Source Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Typically, books on being an antiracist methodically walk readers through systemic racism and its related terminology, but Joseph takes a more personal, and perhaps more effective, approach, sharing stories from his time in school and college to provide cultural history and opportunities for reflection. In the process, the Black author offers context when explaining white privilege, cultural appropriation, power dynamics, and other important issues. For instance, as he describes hanging out at a white classmate's house and being asked about basketball and fried chicken, readers begin to see the subtle--and not-so-subtle--ways that white people sustain racism. He then uses these experiences to point out in a frank manner what white people can--or in most cases, what they should NOT--do to avoid racism. His stories also include individuals from other races, ethnicities, and religions, extending his message to end racism against all people of color. To reinforce many of his points, Joseph includes interviews with writers, activists, and other influencers from multiple intersections. Finally, he calls on white people to become active accomplices, rather than passive allies, in the fight. Readers can find more explanations of terms and movements in the concluding "Encyclopedia of Racism," as well as a "The Black Friend Playlist" and "People and Things to Know" roster. A hard-hitting resource for action and change.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Gearing this volume toward white people "who want to be better," Joseph offers anecdotes about his experiences with racism and white supremacy--including the first time he visited a white friend's house and his first encounter with a security guard at age 11--interlacing them with clear explanations of "the historic and current iniquities and disparities plaguing Black people and people of color as a whole." Supported by an Encyclopedia of Racism at book's end and studded with contextualizing boxes, the text frequently employs humor ("I'm not going to even bother explaining The Fresh Prince") while leading readers through topics such as "This Isn't a Fad; This Is My Culture"; "So Your Relative Is Racist. What Should You Do?"; and "Let's Not Do Oppression Olympics." Interviews with author Angie Thomas, journalist Jemele Hill, and others contribute discussions on the problem with "color blindness" and the importance of personal growth, among various topics. In a genial, assured tone, Joseph invites and encourages readers to reflect on their own behavior, move toward anti-racism, and implement change. Ages 12--up. Agent: Alex Slater, Trident Media Group. (Dec.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up--Joseph contextualizes the legacy of racism and white supremacy through the lens of personal experience. Using humor and a conversational tone, he shares memories from his childhood to demonstrate encounters that were annoying, hateful, and even traumatic. Each story highlights how the words or actions of a white person left a lasting impact. There were kids who thought Joseph only liked rap music, a teacher who believed the only way he could get a high grade was by cheating, and police officers who were quick to assume he was the perpetrator. Interviews with influential Black personalities, who describe their thoughts on what white people should understand about Black people and Black culture, are featured throughout. There is a lot to love about this book, but its greatest strength is its ability to provide readers with the knowledge to recognize and understand the many faces of racism. Joseph delves into topics such as microaggressions, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and affirmative action. He clearly and decisively breaks down the misconceptions surrounding each. The tone occasionally seeps into disappointed teacher territory and is unlikely to win over new allies but, as the introduction states, this text is for young white people who want to be better. Back matter includes "An Encyclopedia of Racism," a playlist, and recommended reading. VERDICT A helpful, commanding guide for white Americans who are ready to learn how to dismantle the system of racism, specifically anti-Blackness, and how they can change. Recommended for all libraries.--Cathy DeCampli, Haddonfield P.L., NJ

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Part memoir, part guidebook, this title explores scenarios of interpersonal and institutional struggle to introduce the next generation of White youth to anti-racism. Following well-received 2020 releases for young people, including Tiffany Jewell's This Book Is Anti-Racist and Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped, progressive marketing professional, activist, and philanthropist Joseph offers his own experiences in a text that aims to "provide teaching moments, cultural history, and context for white people." Why the singular focus? The author notes that "the world needs to be better, and because of the power that white people hold in our society, much of that change needs to start with white people." Joseph invites contributions from YA author Angie Thomas, Academy Award-winning playwright and actor Tarell Alvin McCraney, and sports journalist Jemele Hill, among notable others. The language strikes a congenial yet firm tone, recognizing that those who have made it this far are to be met with genuine intention; his message is that it's about becoming better and understanding how your own behavior and knowledge are critical to leveraging the change needed to overhaul oppressive systems. Joseph navigates the sensitivity of such a project and poses a sincere question that challenges the long-held promise of reading amid widespread injustice: "If I show people how they're hurting others, will some of them be willing to change?" Here's to many readers digging in to find out. A smartly researched, well-intentioned provocation to inspire change. (glossary, people and things to know, playlist, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

INTRODUCTION One of the most important lessons I learned when I was younger was that being a Black person in this world usually means that at some point, you're going to have to do things you don't enjoy. Even more important was learning that many of those things are going to include white people. For me, that has meant spending a lot of my time as an adult discussing white supremacy, white privilege, and the negative aspects of whiteness in general. If you don't know what a bolded word or term means, don't worry: I've defined it at the back of the book. Yes, friends: it's your very own Encyclopedia of Racism. Anyone who truly knows me would tell you I'd much rather spend my time tweeting about the Lakers, watching rom-coms, or sleeping. But, as I learned a long time ago, there aren't enough people addressing societal issues, so here I am. Because of how publicly critical I am of the impact white people have, and have had, on people of color and on the general world around them, some people have gone so far as to say I hate white people. Honestly, this deeply offends me, as I've been to over ten John Mayer concerts and at least two hockey games; there's no way a person who hates white people willingly attends the two whitest events on earth multiple times. That said, my one actual problem with white people is that many just don't have any sense of accountability when it comes to people of color. Accountability not only for the things white people do that often make interacting with them the most frustrating and tumultuous part of our days. But also, accountability for the historic and current inequities and disparities plaguing Black people and people of color as a whole. Which is why I've written this book. Not because of the fame, fortune, and chance to meet Oprah--though those would be pretty dope. But, as a Black person, I speak on behalf of people of color (except those of us on Fox News) when I say: WE HAVE A WHITE PEOPLE PROBLEM. My aim is to help you go from being a person who is learning and unlearning things about these problems created and perpetuated by white people to someone who actively works to solve them. This is called being an antiracist. I define antiracists as people who understand that white supremacy isn't something to empathize with Black and brown people over. It's a destructive system and existence that white people created, and antiracists are actively trying to end it. While many believe there is no way to change the problem, because they believe there is no way to change white people, I disagree. Because after sitting with and talking to many white people throughout my life, I've come to realize that there are white people who do care and who I believe want to make change. But these same white people often don't understand the negative impact they are having or how to be better, because many of them have never had the conversations necessary to know this stuff, either in the classroom or outside of it. Let's face it: Black people and people of color are taught in school, in the media, and in everyday interactions to be empathetic and understanding of white people and their history. But most white people never have to do the same for us. You'll notice I don't capitalize the w in white when referring to white people, though I capitalize the B when referring to Black people. This is a personal preference, because white people are simply defined by the color of their skin, while Black people are a cultural and ethnic group. For example, I've never met a white person who doesn't know who Christopher Columbus was (even though he didn't discover anything). But most white people can't have an informed conversation about the indigenous people who were already in America and the lingering impact on indigenous people today of so many of their ancestors having been slaughtered by people like Christopher Columbus. Nor do most white people know anything about the white supremacist massacre of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma--though most white people can tell you that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played together on the Oklahoma City Thunder. To put it plainly, we have to learn a lot of white crap, including white history, much of which is not even true. Meanwhile, white people never have to learn about us, because doing so would force white people to be held accountable for the many ways they've mistreated--and continue to mistreat--people of color. This book is an opportunity to change that. To provide some of the context and history that is so often lacking for white people. Heck, we even added the Encyclopedia of Racism because my white editor pointed out that many of you reading this might not understand some of the terms that I'll be using, some of the events I refer to, or why certain things are racist. I hope you already looked up white privilege , from page 00. Here's another opportunity to use the encyclopedia: if you aren't familiar with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, go to the back of the book and learn about it. But to the point about people who think white people can't change: I understand, and have met those white people, too. These are the types of white people who will say things like "Black people need to get over slavery" or "We had a Black president; there is no more racism." These are people who want white supremacy to continue because it benefits them. They are the same people who will say this book sucks, never having read it. But this book isn't for those white people. It's for the ones who want to do better, who want to be better. But where do white people start? How does someone learn empathy? Is it by watching a specific movie? Listening to an album? I think it starts with understanding. Excerpted from The Black Friend: on Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.