Black History month has been celebrated during Feb. since 1970. There are many things to do during this month to properly pay homage to African Americans and their journey to freedom and rights in the United States. Today there is a movie depicting almost every great African American athlete, war hero, or public speaker who spoke out against oppression and discrimination. Many of those films and series are a bit on the older side though and for the younger generation who grew up with Spike Lee movies being nothing more then something that plays on TV, they are often at a loss with what to do when attempting to celebrate Black History Month.
Luckily author, political blogger, comedian, and Harvard graduate Barratunde Thurston has answered this question with his New York Times bestselling book “How To Be Black.”
As the disclaimer in the preface explains, this is not an instructional manual on how to become someone of color if you are not one already, “You cannot digest the printed copy and expect some supernatural physical transformation beyond painful indigestion,” and it is not advisable for someone to attempt consuming the printed word for these intentions.
The intent of Mr. Thurston’s book is actually to teach those who read it about the modern struggles of being Black in America today via witty story telling from both the author’s perspective and the perspective of his panel of “blackness” experts, ranging from fellow comedians to political journalist colleagues, the author of “Things White People Like” (blog and book) is even a member of Thurston’s panel offering a white perspective on many of the topics discussed.
Topics include “How black are you?”, “How to speak for all black people,” “How to be the black employee,” and “How to be the angry Negro” are all discussed but also broken down with Thurston’s first-hand accounts from his life in those situations and many more.
Thurston’s extremely quotable and side splitting book exists half a depiction of being Black and dealing with it in modern America, represented in chapters “How to be the Black employee” and “Do you know what an Oreo is?” Both chapters explore the idea of being either the only black person in an office or in a predominantly white school, and part biography on the life of Baratunde Thurston.
Baratunde Thurston is the perfect author for a book like this, having grown up with a Pan-African minded mother during the pre and post crack era D.C. After attending a prestigious (mostly white) middle school and high school, then Harvard University. Thurston’s life experiences lend well to the topic of his race and reflects on the major events that have shaped the culture of today.
While extremely informative, the book is just as personal and Thurston can blend heart touching moments just as well as he can fabricate a witty sentence that causes raucous laughter. This is a must read, not buying it is essentially saying acting as a racist as the back cover of “How to Be Black” explains. A bonus that comes with purchase of “How To Be Black” is the fun that can be had reading the book in public places, regardless of your race this activity brings endless entertainment and Instagram photos.