How To Be Black

Baratunde Thurston is the CEO, co-founder, and hashtagger-in-chief of Cultivated Wit. He wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black and served for five years as director of digital for the satirical news outlet, The Onion. He writes the monthly back page column for Fast Company and contributes to the MIT Media Lab as a director’s fellow.He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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One of the most interesting emails I’ve received

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.

Comedian Baratunde Thurston - 'Perception and Comedy' from Open Society Foundations and American Values Institute on

Today I performed at the Black Male Re-Imagined II event in NYC. Other speakers included Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, Global Grind’s Michael Skolnick, former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, hip hop artist and activist Jasiri X and many more.

You can see lots of vides on the Fora.TV website