Some of My Best Friends Are Black

Some of My Best Friends Are Black

The Strange Story of Integration in America

Book - 2012
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Chronicles America's troubling relationship with race through four interrelated stories: the transformation of a once-racist Birmingham school system; a Kansas City neighborhood's fight against housing discrimination; the curious racial divide of the Madison Avenue ad world; and a Louisiana Catholic parish's forty-year effort to build an integrated church.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2012
ISBN: 9780670023714
Branch Call Number: History 305.896 Col


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Apr 28, 2019

Author Tanner Colby tackles the challenging subject of race in his book, SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK. Colby presents the cultural background and history of integration in 4 areas: schools (greater Birmingham, AL); housing/neighborhoods (KC, MO); work (specifically the advertising industry in NYC); and church (Grand Coteau, LA). The author includes in each section quotes and personal accounts from the people involved. He also attempts to balance the tension and serious nature of his subject with moments of dry wit and humor. I found the sections devoted to schools and neighborhoods to be the strongest. Even though the chapters about advertising and religion seemed to drag for me, overall the issues raised by Colby are so timely and thought-provoking this book deserves to be read.

JCLChrisK Apr 18, 2019

Accessible, personable, and entertaining.

Informative, enlightening, thoughtful, and provocative.

Tanner weaves broad themes, deep research, and personal stories (from extensive interviews) to great effect, showing just how interconnected the different aspects of this issue are.

It's a most worthwhile read.

Apr 01, 2019

Really engaging and informative history of integration in the U.S., and it is indeed a strange story, one that I did not know the half of before reading this book. The book's fascinating four "case studies," each representing an area of American social life--education, housing, work, and church--are treated in all of their complexity, nuance, and paradox. I also enjoyed the author's style, very accessible and also truly funny at times. At its core, the book provides a serious accounting of the deep, long-lasting harms of white racism, and of how far we Americans are from a truly integrated society.

IndyPL_CarrieS Feb 25, 2019

Why 50 years out from Desegregation is America still so segregated? The book is divided into 4 different sections focusing on a case study from a school, a neighborhood, an industry and a church. This book is anything but dry. It was thoughtful and the author knows how to poked fun at himself. I continually stayed up past my bedtime because I just wanted to keep reading the next passage, and the next... It really addresses the lingering effects of systematic racism and how it differs from personal racist feelings. The most eye opening aspect of Desegregation for me as a White reader was just how much the African-American community lost in the process.

IndyPL_RyanD Jan 23, 2019

This is a great book that explores segregation and race relations related to neighborhoods, schools, employment, and church. I would recommend that white people, and really anybody, read this book if they have questions as to why there may be a lack of diversity in their community. Integration only works if everyday people in the community want it to work. This is a point made by the author that had an impact on me and summarizes the book well.

Nov 11, 2018

This book revealed to me many aspects of the history of integration that I was not aware of. Colby chooses to focus on school integration in suburban Birmingham, the rise of the white suburban neighborhoods in Kansas City, the dividing line on Madison Avenue and the struggle to integrate the Catholic church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. This book is chock full of dates and names. Truly each subject could and has been the subject of entire books.

The Kansas City section fascinated and frustrated me since that is where I live. My son is a student at Rockhurst University and drives down Troost to school making a stop at Go Chicken Go to bring gizzards home occasionally. The Grand Coteau story reminds us that although we have a long ways to go, progress continues. Reading this book helps me to see where I may have been blind to the problem and reminds me to keep my eyes open for ways I can love my neighbor as I should.

JCLHeatherM Jul 22, 2018

Communities are made and formed based on the relationships that we develop with each other. So what happens when schools, neighborhoods, and churches do not have the strong relationships to back them? Colby examines all kinds of communities (from the home front to the workforce) in order to determine how we relate or sometimes don't relate to each other. Confronting prejudices and past history head-on, Colby opens a dialogue that challenges readers to examine their own environment, their own way of looking at others.

Jan 16, 2015

it speaks volumes to white arrogance and the fact that they don't even see it .....or want to and how black people constantly chase after white acceptance a vicious circle and an informative read.

Oct 02, 2014

The cover photo could have been my classroom with me as the black face in the corner.
I found this a very enjoyable read and a well researched one. Four stories that blend together well into the theme.
No problems are solved, and in a way, it is so disheartening to see how little things have changed in some areas, but also the hopeful places where things have nudged even if only by a little. I wish I could require this reading of every person who tries to tell me that racism isn't an issue here any longer.

May 28, 2014

For me as a white 54year old woman who grew up in this book (childhood from 6-20 at 71st and college, just south and a bit east of the area that is written of indepth in this book) and now living in the Johnson county area just west of the Plaza, I can completely agree with all of his observations.
We as white people do not understand the life of a black person. You must live it to understand it, and I along with my brother and sister did. We were the white family that did not move out of the area because my parents could not afford it again (originally lived at 39th and highland till 1966).
With all this being said, I must tell you that I would NEVER change the area and the way that I grew up if I could now. This book spoke of how "ingeneral" a neighborhood can servive if all residents participate.
Interesting also is the fact that he barely mentions the "affluent" pockets of the black neighborhoods and yet I know for a fact that there were some at that time and trust me they did not want anything to do with any "trash" no matter what the color.

This is a very easy read and if you are from the east side or the Plaza or Johnson County you will be inlightened by this book. Then go find a 70-80year old person and talk with them about what they mother in law was very knowledged as she was a new mother during this times in KC.

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Apr 28, 2019

"Trying to corral the suburban stampede with a bunch of school buses was like herding cats. Actually, it was worse than herding cats. It was herding white people, earth's only species with a greater sense of entitlement than a cat.” - p. 125

Apr 28, 2019

“True integration, as Martin Luther King said, will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.” - p. 140

Apr 28, 2019

"This civil rights issue wasn't really a black and white problem [a Jewish community leader said]. It was a Christian problem.” - p. 232

Apr 28, 2019

“…the Promised Land isn't the place where our problems are solved. It's the place where we find the courage to solve them. And that's all it ever has been.” - p. 285

JCLChrisK Apr 18, 2019

In the 20th century, Kansas City produced two uniquely American geniuses who would both forever alter the physical and cultural landscape of the country. One of these men built a magic kingdom, a fantasy world that offered nonstop, wholesome family fun and a complete escape from reality. The other one moved to Hollywood and opened a theme park. ...

In the South, Jim Crow was just the law. In KC, J.C. Nichols turned it into a product. Then he packaged it, commodified it, and sold it. Whiteness was no longer just an inflated social status. Now it was worth cash money. ...

Between 1908 and 1948, racial covenants were used to exclude [blacks] from 62 percent of all new housing developments in Jackson County, MO. During that same period, racial covenants had excluded them from 96 percent of all new housing developments in Johnson County, KS. And between 1934 and 1962, the FHA backed mortgages for more than 77,000 homes in the KC area; less than 1 percent of those loans went to blacks.

JCLChrisK Apr 18, 2019

When you're white in America, life is a restricted country club by default, engineered in such a way that the problems of race rarely intrude on you personally. During the time of Jim Crow, it took a great deal of terrorism, fear, and deliberate, purposeful discrimination to keep the color line in place. What's curious about America today is that you can be white and enjoy much of the same isolation and exclusivity without having to do anything. As long as you're not the guy dumb enough to get caught emailing racist jokes around the office, all you have to do is read about black people in the newspaper. And, really, you don't even have to do that. Where you need a deliberate, purposeful sense of action is to go the other way, to leave the country club and see what's going on out in the world.


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