Some of My Best Friends are Black by Tanner Colby

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

During the 2008 Presidential campaign Tanner Colby supported Barack Obama.  Then he realized that he didn’t have any black friends to celebrate his victory with. 

In an attempt to understand why he didn’t know any black people Tanner investigated categories of integration in the United States. First he looked at housing and education. These are interrelated because local schools pull their students from the surrounding community. If the community is not integrated then the schools can’t be integrated. Government attempted to integrate schools in racially monolithic neighborhoods by bussing children across cities to make an ideal racial mix. This led to a lot of resentment in both white and black communities.

Most of the story of integration tends to be told from the perspective of black people whose lives were improved by integration. But Tanner looks at people who lives were not improved by integration. When schools that employed black administrators and teachers were closed, many of these professionals could not find equivalent jobs in integrated school systems.

He also examined his high school in Alabama which was created when people from the city moved out to the suburbs to avoid integration and the subsequent bussing of children from a poor black neighborhood that was ordered in order to integrate the school system.

The next area of integration examined is the workplace. Advertising is the industry profiled because segregation still occurs in most of the major advertising companies.

Martin Luther King Junior once said that 11 AM on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. Now the author examines the church. He goes back to his early life in Louisiana where everyone was Catholic. In most of the small towns in Louisiana there is a black Catholic Church and a white Catholic Church.

He tells the story of one parish that spent 50 years trying to integrate their black and white congregations with strong support for integration and resistance to integration on both sides of the racial divide.

The overall message of this book is not necessarily hopeful if you believe that integration is a worthy goal. This book brings the perspectives of people who believe that it is and people who believe that there is strength in segregation. It makes you think about incidences in your own life in different ways. If you lived in a racially segregated neighborhood why was that the case? If you lived in integrated neighborhood was that done on purpose? Do you go to a segregated church? Why or why not? Do you know?