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The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person

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Paperback
$12.00 US
5.44"W x 8.25"H x 0.8"D   | 12 oz | 40 per carton
On sale Jan 03, 2023 | 288 Pages | 978-1-5362-2304-0
Age 12 and up | Grade 7 & Up
Reading Level: Lexile 980L | Fountas & Pinnell Z+
additional book photo
additional book photo
“A hard-hitting resource for action and change.” —Booklist (starred review)

“We don’t see color.” “I didn’t know Black people liked Star Wars!” “What hood are you from?” As a student in a largely white high school, Frederick Joseph often simply let wince-worthy moments go. When he grew older, he saw them as missed opportunities to stand up for himself and bring awareness to those who didn’t see the hurt they caused. Here, Joseph speaks to the reader as he wishes he’d spoken to his friends, unpacking hurtful race-related anecdotes from his past and sharing how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter also features the voice and experience of an artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; and Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host. From cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, this book is a conversation starter, tool kit, and window into the life of a former “token Black kid.” Back matter includes an encyclopedia of racism, including details on historical events and terminology.
  • AWARD | 2020
    Booklist Editor's Choice
For young white people who want to be better, who want to be anti-racist, who want to be people who are striving to recognize and even take down the structures of racism.
– Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning, on NPR’s Morning Edition

With clear, powerful prose and a gentle dose of humor, The Black Friend is essential reading for anyone wishing to be part of a better world. I absolutely loved this book.
—Julie Klam, New York Times best-selling author

The Black Friend is THE book everyone needs to read right now. Frederick Joseph has written an essential window into the movement toward anti-racism. Read it, absorb it, and be changed because of it.
—Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

For every white person who ever wanted to do better, inside this book, Frederick Joseph offers you both the tools and the chance.
—Jacqueline Woodson, Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award

Toward the end of The Black Friend, Frederick Joseph writes that his book is ‘a gift, not an obligation.’ I respectfully disagree. This book should be an obligation for white people, especially white parents, because we must raise anti-racist kids who will never be perpetrators of or bystanders to white supremacy and who will never mistake tolerance or appropriation for respect. Don’t skip the painful parts—read every word.
—Chelsea Clinton, author, advocate, and vice chair of the Clinton Foundation

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...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.
—Booklist (starred review)

Gearing this volume toward white people “who want to be better,” Joseph offers anecdotes about his experiences with racism and white supremacy...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.
—Publishers Weekly Online (starred 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...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.
—Kirkus Reviews
Frederick Joseph is the coauthor of Better Than We Found It: Conversations to Help Save the World, with Porsche Joseph. He is also the author of Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood, a collection of essays and poetry and an instant New York Times bestseller, and the picture book Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: The Courage to Dream, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. An award-winning activist, philanthropist, and marketing professional, Frederick Joseph was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is a recipient of the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and was selected for the 2018 Root 100, an annual list of the most influential African Americans. He lives in New York City with his wife, Porsche, and their dog, Stokely.
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.

Photos

additional book photo
additional book photo

About

“A hard-hitting resource for action and change.” —Booklist (starred review)

“We don’t see color.” “I didn’t know Black people liked Star Wars!” “What hood are you from?” As a student in a largely white high school, Frederick Joseph often simply let wince-worthy moments go. When he grew older, he saw them as missed opportunities to stand up for himself and bring awareness to those who didn’t see the hurt they caused. Here, Joseph speaks to the reader as he wishes he’d spoken to his friends, unpacking hurtful race-related anecdotes from his past and sharing how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter also features the voice and experience of an artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; and Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host. From cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, this book is a conversation starter, tool kit, and window into the life of a former “token Black kid.” Back matter includes an encyclopedia of racism, including details on historical events and terminology.

Awards

  • AWARD | 2020
    Booklist Editor's Choice

Praise

For young white people who want to be better, who want to be anti-racist, who want to be people who are striving to recognize and even take down the structures of racism.
– Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning, on NPR’s Morning Edition

With clear, powerful prose and a gentle dose of humor, The Black Friend is essential reading for anyone wishing to be part of a better world. I absolutely loved this book.
—Julie Klam, New York Times best-selling author

The Black Friend is THE book everyone needs to read right now. Frederick Joseph has written an essential window into the movement toward anti-racism. Read it, absorb it, and be changed because of it.
—Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

For every white person who ever wanted to do better, inside this book, Frederick Joseph offers you both the tools and the chance.
—Jacqueline Woodson, Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award

Toward the end of The Black Friend, Frederick Joseph writes that his book is ‘a gift, not an obligation.’ I respectfully disagree. This book should be an obligation for white people, especially white parents, because we must raise anti-racist kids who will never be perpetrators of or bystanders to white supremacy and who will never mistake tolerance or appropriation for respect. Don’t skip the painful parts—read every word.
—Chelsea Clinton, author, advocate, and vice chair of the Clinton Foundation

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...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.
—Booklist (starred review)

Gearing this volume toward white people “who want to be better,” Joseph offers anecdotes about his experiences with racism and white supremacy...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.
—Publishers Weekly Online (starred 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...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.
—Kirkus Reviews

Author

Frederick Joseph is the coauthor of Better Than We Found It: Conversations to Help Save the World, with Porsche Joseph. He is also the author of Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood, a collection of essays and poetry and an instant New York Times bestseller, and the picture book Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: The Courage to Dream, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. An award-winning activist, philanthropist, and marketing professional, Frederick Joseph was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is a recipient of the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and was selected for the 2018 Root 100, an annual list of the most influential African Americans. He lives in New York City with his wife, Porsche, and their dog, Stokely.

Excerpt

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.