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How To Be Black, the enhanced e-book edition, contains 14 author-conducted video interviews with individuals who exemplify “how to be black,” an audio clip o . How to Be Black is a book written by the American comedian Baratunde Thurston . It is an autobiographical account of Thurston’s life and upbringing and. This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. 1, How to Be Black will be released in paperback on Oct. It’s no coincidence that.

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Baratunde Thurston is an American comedian and the digital director of The Onion. He is also a prolific tweeter. Courtesy of the author hide caption. This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. How to Be Black will be released in paperback on Oct. It’s no coincidence that Baratunde Thurston’s new memoir and satirical self-help book How to Be Black was slated for release on the first day of Black History Month.

Thurston, a stand-up comedian and The Onion ‘s digital director, says that he doesn’t get as many gigs this month as one might think. That’s because How to Be Black is partially a practical guidebook for anyone looking to befriend or work with a black person, become the next black president or challenge anyone who says they speak for all black people.

But the book isn’t just filled with comedic advice. Thurston weaves together his comedy with thoughtful missives about his own education at Sidwell Friends and Harvard University, and his childhood in one of the worst crack-addled neighborhoods in Washington, D.

His father was killed in a drug deal when Thurston was 6. His mother was what he describes as a “pan-African hippie type of woman who marched in the streets” and named him Baratunde as a way to “get back to Africa.

Through my story, I hope to expose you to another side of the black experience while offering practical, comedic advice based on my own painful lessons learned. Your purchase helps support NPR programming. When Thurston went to school, his teachers shortened his name — which means “one who is chosen” in Nigeria — and started calling him “Barrington.

It’s a great name. People should call me that. Just say it faster. It can save you time and be a little bit more efficient if you’re worried about the time. Thurston says he often encounters different assumptions based on his name, depending thurxton his audience. Nigerians immediately think he’s from Africa, and then are disappointed to learn that he’s not. The reaction ve Americans, meanwhile, is also mixed. So the name for me became a prism, because Baratunde has such a strong sound Maybe he’s a black dude or an African dude.


Thurston says his name wasn’t the only indication that he straddled two worlds as a kid. On the weekdays, he attended the bartunde Sidwell Friends School, where he played lacrosse and hockey and hung out with kids whose parents ran the State Department and baratujde World Health Bqratunde.

But even at home, it didn’t stop. My mom had this map of Africa on her bedroom wall, and she’d actually quiz me. Thurston’s mom raised him by herself after his father was killed. He remembers his mother telling him his father was dead after receiving a phone call from the police. So I know I had a physical reaction, but it wasn’t until years later that I fully understood what that meant.

Thurston says he remembers not being allowed outside at the height of the s crack epidemic in the district.

I remember not playing outside as much, being told: Go to so-and-so’s house but stay inside. And I also have a very particular memory of watching some of my friends walk down that road [toward drugs that] I didn’t walk down. Thurston says one family on his street morphed “almost like that figure of evolution — of the ape hunched over becoming man” into drug dealers.

How to Be Black Quotes by Baratunde R. Thurston

I remember when those same kids set up a lemonade stand. And then I remember when their jackets got nicer, their boots got nicer and they were selling drugs.

That was such a strong memory in my head. In junior high, Thurston moved from Columbia Heights to a suburban black neighborhood in Maryland. The move, once again, made him shift his persona. Thurston says he was able to balance his worlds because he was taught “multiple extremes. Africa did this, Africa did that, and the white man caused this,” he says. I didn’t go insane. So it encouraged me to see the goods in both sides and challenge both perspectives.

A black student who had been at the school for a really long time was assigned to be my buddy and adjust me to the environment. And he asked if I knew what an Oreo was. We were in the first stairwell of the upper-school building, in the southeast corner, I remember all this.

And I really thought he was talking about cookies. I said, ‘Yeah, it’s the cream-filled cookie from Nabisco. Oreo’s someone who is black on the outside and white on the inside. He thyrston to a kid across the way and said, ‘That kid’s an Oreo. And that was the first introduction of this concept, inauthentic blackness because you’re comfortable around whiteness. At a school like Sidwell, let’s just take the fun fact of a black kid who’s blaxk at Sidwell all his life judging another black kid at Sidwell’s blackness Then you take someone like me that would go to Sidwell by day and then go back to my neighborhood and the black kids there, and ro judgment of someone like me who goes off to the fancy private school.


Initially, it was like: But you will get it from kids who don’t know you. On learning how important it is to have a black friend if you’re a white person, and blak versa. They buy hip-hop, they watch black athletic and sports figures, and it’s superpopular — from jazz through hip-hop.

Having a black friend is a mark of progressive success as bbaratunde white person. And the black person is usually seen as their asset. I’m cooler by proxy. What black people get in the white community [is having] a covert operative behind enemy lines. You have a trusted source who can shuttle information back and forth.

Baratunde Thurston Explains ‘How To Be Black’ : NPR

It’s like the Cold War. It’s a back channel that prevents race wars from blowing up. So barafunde your ge friend has a question about something, they can ask you, their trusted black friend, and you can feed them real or false information, depending on your purposes, but they don’t have to make an assumption or a leap that ends up in a more awkward, more public moment.

I think it is bad for America and little girls. You basically got this stalker vampire who’s basically abusing this low self-esteem child, and that is hailed as a great image of love and respect. Because I have read the books and suffered through them, I wanted to baraunde others from falling into that same fate.

Baratunde Thurston Explains ‘How To Be Black’

So on opening weekend, I go to the theater, I sit in the back to not disturb people, and I live-hate-tweet the film. And that just means I tweet in real-time with hate. I absolutely disdain this franchise.

So I’m describing the storyline through my eyes and what the story really means, and it’s proved very popular. And most importantly, I’ve prevented people from spending their hard-earned money. Read an excerpt of How To Be Black. Accessibility links Skip to main content Keyboard shortcuts hoow audio player.

Baratunde Thurston Explains ‘How To Be Black’ From the comedian and digital director of The Oniona satirical self-help book for anyone who has a black friend, wants to be the next black president or speak thyrston the black community. Facebook Twitter Flipboard Email. October 19, Heard on Fresh Air. Courtesy of the author.