Just finished. Folks, this book is very very good. Far better than The Accidental Billionaires. It’s much more of a novel than a typical business book. Nick (disclaimer: he is a friend) did a masterful job weaving these threads together. I actually think it’s important for people to read this. Lots of lessons about how not to treat people. Lots of insight into how and why twitter is as important as it is – View on Path.
I don't know about ALL Black people....(Have you ever been asked to speak for all Black people)
Special thanks to this submission. I’ll consider a disclaimer in future printings :)
As I was sitting in the line for the screening of another big-budget summer film I made the mistake of telling a non-Black person I was reading your book. As such I became trapped into a 45 minute discussion explaining to him why I don’t know why ALL Black people do what we do.
You may want to preface your next book with a warning that merely being in possession of your work may embolden well-meaning but somewhat annoying non-whites to ask all the questions they ever had about us.
Nonetheless, I LOVED your book and look forward to more offerings in the future.
"Post-Racial My Friggin' Ass" or, "My Authentic Whiteness Is Questioned"
Not that many years ago, I worked for a large tech contracting company that I can’t name, called Accenture. It was a horrific experience on so many levels that I can’t possibly catalogue them here, but what’s a bit scary is, the Indian guys on H1B’s said it was a vastly better company for them to work for than the previous firm that lost the job to Accenture, because the previous employer had made it clear, that if they didn’t want to work long overtime without pay they would yank their visa and see them deported ex post haste.
At this particular job, a giant mult-million dollar debacle on both sides of the contract, there were large swarms of kids fresh out of college that were wandering around with scared looks on their faces, noone mentoring them, noone offering guidance; hell, they were lucky if they had a task more concrete than “write some requirements for a system to collect personal information” or “Create a database schema for information about people”. Or, my favorite,
Boss: “Figure out why this software isn’t working right” Programmer: “What is it supposed to do?” Boss: “I don’t know, figure that out from the current system.” Programmer: “But if it’s not working right, how am I supposed to know what it’s supposed to do?” Boss: “I don’t have time for this, you’re supposed to be smart, just do it!”
There was one freshout (as us grizzled veterans called them) working on Business Analysis, writing requirement documents, fielding questions from customers. He seemed bright enough to me.
So I was stunned, and disgusted¸when a friend of mine passed along the supposition that he’d gotten hired as part of some “government program”. I just stared at her, and finally asked her “what makes you think he didn’t get the job the same way you did, by going to college, working hard, getting good grades, and being smart?”
Because this kid was black, from the East Side, a hometown black muslim, all the white kids fresh out of college had assumed he’d somehow wangled a free ride. Now, there WAS a super dumb freshout that I can only assume cheated his way to his degree or forged his resume, because you cannot graduate from an accredited university with a degree in Computer Science and not even know how to declare a variable. But this kid was not that kid, and I didn’t assume the other kid had cheated because he happened to be black, I assumed he had cheated because he was dumb as a post, and on top of that, lazy. This other kid was really friendly. He shared his tea with me for Christ sake. Probably because I was the only American working there that didn’t treat him like he was a foreigner. If recollection serves, he was one of only four black people in a job with hundreds of employees, and when the only other guy is a fool, and the other two are French-speaking Nigerians who like to hang out speaking French, you have to talk to someone. Maybe having a lot of grafts on my family tree has made me more accessible, mabe being the queer outcast all of my childhood has made me more sympathetic to outsiders, or maybe I’m just an all around saint.
In fact, one of the guys I worked with there and liked, a friendly red-headed guy, actually asked me in private if I was white. I kind of stared, mouth open, and then laughed. A little hysterically, I have to admit. This is the deep south. People asking you that is usually Not Good. Turns out like me, he was just confused. He said, “well, I thought so, but I mean, you’re kind of… down on white people is all.” He wasn’t being ugly, but Jesus! Hating haters isn’t the same as being a “race traitor” is it??
Yours wasn’t the only ’70s mom to drag their kid into the woods, shop for healthy tasteless food at a food co-op and seek to foster an open minded child. My German immigrant mom did the same. Bless them both.
I’m originally from the Detroit area, where diversity among minorities is not uncommon. About 2 years ago, I moved to Indianapolis. Since I’ve been here, the biggest question about my race has been “which one of your parents is white?”. Before, people back home would ask me what country my family was from, but never doubt my black ancestry. But here? I guess me taking care of my hair and being light skinned with strange undertones means I’m not all of the way black.
So for the purpose of defining my racial makeup, I do it as so: I am black mixed with black. I have a black islander (Afro-Cuban) parent, and a black indigenous (Native American) parent. Both are brown skinned (differing shades), and both are proudly black, just as my siblings.
And when people question me propping up my Cuban background with the “I thought you were black” commentary, I simply reply “America is not the only place Black People can be born”.
in response to Has Anyone Ever Questioned Your Authentic Blackness
The first time I ever ran into this issue was first grade. At that time, my family lived in a poorer part of the city and I went to a majority Black school. I often had exchanges like this:
"Why do you talk like that?"
"Are you mixed?"
Being a little kid, I didn’t really see how those two questions related, but needless to say, they were always paired together. It was if the only way to explain why I talked “proper” was for me to be of some other race.
In high school, it wasn’t so subtle. I went to a school in the suburbs where almost everyone was White, Christian, and middle class. I once had a classmate (he was White) question me about my taste in music. After saying I didn’t listen to a lot of rap, he replied, “Are you really Black? You don’t talk Black. You don’t listen to rap. I don’t think you’re Black.”
Y’know, because my race is defined by only those things. I’m only glad I never thought to change myself into something I wasn’t.
Just finished your audiobook. LOVE IT! I was hoping your site would have a list of links to the folks on your black panel. Can you produce that real quick?
I’m so so sorry for the delay in this. I honestly forgot Tumblr had messaging! It’s a weird platform ok? Anyway here’s a Twitter list of all Black Panel members. Good call. Will add to sidebar someday when I renovate this site!
I just finished the book--as a American-born child of Nigerian immigrants, I found the experiences/advice detailed in the text relatable as well as hilarious. Major thanks to you and the the Black Panel!
Two progressive, hilarious, and somewhat controversial responses to the government shutdown have emerged in the last couple days. One is FuckYouCongress.com which allows people to tweet #FuckYouCongress” at their Congress member.
If you watch the twitter stream, people are populating the hashtag with local, state and national examples of how the government shutdown is impacting all of us. The site also gives people easy ways to register to vote and progressive organizations to connect to.
The other is DrunkDialCongress.org (powered by Revolution Messaging) where anyone can enter their phone number to automatically call and yell at a random member of Congress. Talking points and mixed drink recipes (I’m trying the Southern Congressman after I finish this post) add to the fun.
I got this email in late June, and am about to blog an answer to it, but I wanted the original out there in full. I removed the writer’s name because it’s not important, but the full context of the sentiment is, so here goes:
I recently read ‘How to be Black’ and wanted to reach out let you know how much I enjoyed the book. As a 28 year old white man, the most pointed moment is when you suggest turning over the responsibility to fight racism to white people. I thought about this a lot and my question to you is – What are we supposed to do about it?
It is evident that many white people still have racist sentiments. In my experience this has not been outwardly directed at minorities but is typically shared in a confidential manner amongst friends. Many times I have heard the following (These are NOT my views):
Black people don’t work and take all of our money through the government
Black people shoot people and are generally dangerous
Black people are rude
Black people don’t know how to drive
You may think that some comments above should be written off as coming from ignorant or callous individuals but you would be mistaken to do so. This is how many affluent and non-affluent white people feel.
Although there is a growing chasm between races, it is my opinion that the age of technology holds the key for reconciliation between cultures. The studies of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman suggest that familiarity breeds understanding and acceptance. Currently, our cultures tend to live isolated of one another. Without any form of integration we are slowly growing apart from one another.
The question then is how to we begin to get different cultures more familiarity with one another? First, your book is an excellent start. Another potential benefit would be through our children. Perhaps there are opportunities for digital ‘field trips’ between classes of predominately white schools and classes of predominately black schools. This would occur at a young age and give the opportunity to play games with one another.
Personally, I would LOVE to be involved in education about racism today but there is no evident means of where to even get started. If you or any group you know would have use for a moderately intelligent accountant then I would be that guy.