Some of My Best Friends Are Black by Tanner Colby

Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America
Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found Some of My Best Friends Are Black by accident at our town library. The book flap summary seemed interesting, so I picked it up. It turned out to complement Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow quite well, offering a very personal look at the ongoing effects of racial segregation in our churches, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

The two sections I found most interesting were the one about real estate and the one about re-integrating Catholic churches in southern Louisiana. In the real estate section, I was particularly struck by Colby’s description of racially restrictive covenants in real estate. Turns out the modern suburb developed largely as a result of one developer’s desire to make money off of white people’s fears of living near black people. I knew I didn’t like suburbs (particularly housing developments with draconian homeowners’ associations), but now I have another concrete reason to dislike them. In most locations, these racial covenants are still part of the agreements of the housing developments, even though they’re no longer enforceable by law.

In the section about churches, I found the entire history of segregation within both Catholic and Protestant churches very interesting, but I especially appreciated how Colby demonstrated just how difficult it is to get back to more integrated places of worship once these communities have been separated. This is a major issue for many churches in the United States; I know it’s a major concern for my denomination wherever we’ve lived. Colby shows that there is hope, but that integrating our churches requires sacrifice and trust on the part of everyone involved, and of course, trust isn’t something that’s been in great supply between black and white communities in the United States in the last couple of hundred years.

More than four decades after Jim Crow laws in the South were overturned, the United States is still struggling to become racially integrated. The segregation is no longer mandated by law, but the generations of separation have had ripple effects that have proven very difficult to change. Colby’s stories show these difficulties in detail, but he also offers hope that, with a lot of time and effort, we will eventually heal this rift and become a fully integrated culture.

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