Some of My Best Friends Are Black looks at integration and the ways it has failed from a fresh perspective. While campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008, Tanner Colby realized he didn’t know any black people. Asking around, he found that his friends didn’t either. There were very few circumstances when blacks and whites, as Colby would phrase it, hang out and play Scrabble together. He set out to learn why.

Four related stories come together here: a Birmingham school system’s gradual integration; a Kansas City neighborhood that fought housing discrimination; the separate and unequal strata occupied by blacks and whites in advertising; and the intergration of a Louisiana Catholic parish whose parishioners were separated only by a parking lot.

There’s no “a-ha” moment in the book, promising an easy solution and more Scrabble nights if we all follow directions. As Colby writes, “White resistance and black reticence are hopelessly entwined with one another, endlessly variable from situation to situation.” It’s not the recipe for racial harmony, but Some of My Best Friends Are Black moves the discussion forward and out into new territory.

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