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The Black Friend
Cover of The Black Friend
The Black Friend
On Being a Better White Person
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Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about...
Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about...
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  • Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about theirs—creating an essential read for white people who are committed anti-racists and those newly come to the cause of racial justice.

    "We don't see color." "I didn't know Black people liked Star Wars!" "What hood are you from?" For Frederick Joseph, life as a transfer student in a largely white high school was full of wince-worthy moments that he often simply let go. As he grew older, however, he saw these as missed opportunities not only to stand up for himself, but to spread awareness to those white people who didn't see the negative impact they were having.
    Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author's past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently 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. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2020
    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(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 9, 2020
    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.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2020
    Grades 7-12 *Starred 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2020

    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

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Candlewick Press
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On Being a Better White Person
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