The initial pre-publication reviews for Some of My Best Friends Are Black are in and...the verdict so far is good. Fingers are crossed for more. On sale July 9th. You can pre-order the book now.
Who would expect a coauthor of two Saturday Night Live alumni biographies (The Chris Farley Show; Belushi) to pen a thoughtful, judicious, yet provocative social history of American race relations? Colby quips that ignorance is his one qualification as a white writer on race, then gets serious in exploring four key areas: school desegregation (in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham, AL), homeownership and neighborhood (in Kansas City’s 49/63 area), advertising—as a career and a product (in Madison Avenue’s old boys’ network), and church membership (in Grand Coteau, LA). Colby considers the close connections among suburban development, advertising, and racial fear. His tour of Kansas City, still divided racially by one thoroughfare, underlines how years of misguided federal housing and loan policies institutionalized residential racial stratification. And he reveals how, after 40 years, 13 pastors, and untold strife, it took a hurricane and an ailing priest to integrate neighboring black and white Catholic parishes in one Louisiana town. Evenhanded, felicitously written, and animated by numerous interviews, Colby’s book is a pleasure despite its overall bleak message.
In his latest, Colby (The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts) takes a fresh, honest look at race relations, tackling the issue in four realms: school, neighborhood, workplace, and church. He probes school integration’s turbulent history in Birmingham, Ala.—test case for Brown v. Board of Education, and also the place Colby went to high school. He visits his old school district to track its bumpy progress from racial homogeneity to integration and to find out whether the black kids and the white kids still sit at different tables in the lunchroom. In Kansas City, Mo., he uncovers how real estate practices like blockbusting, redlining, and racial covenants created ghettos and urban blight, and how one neighborhood group is fighting back. Then, a former adman himself, Colby returns to Madison Avenue to examine an industry still divided into mainstream white agencies and niche-market black agencies. Finally, he winds up in a Louisiana Catholic parish scarred by racial violence and learns how the church was able to overcome a self-segregation perpetuated by decades of silence and mistrust. Pointing out the shortfalls of court-ordered busing, affirmative action, and other well-intentioned programs, Colby’s charming and surprisingly funny book shows us both how far we’ve come in bridging the racial divide and how far we’ve yet to go.