Friends With Black People
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By Nick Adams
Format: Paperback, 256pp
Pub. Date: March 2006
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Reviewed by Kam Williams
’NIGGER. White readers, I should warn you right now that if reading this particular epithet makes you uncomfortable, you're going to be in for a rough ride. In order to get you used to seeing it, I thought I would go ahead and desensitize you a bit. Feel free to say it out loud’ Nigger’ nigger’ nigger’ nigger’ nigger’ nigger’’
’Excerpted from the Chapter One
I suppose any subject is fair game when a comedian decides to write a humor book. Perhaps this explains why Nick Adams would open his how-to primer designed to help white folks feel comfortable around African-Americans with a shocking chapter devoted to the N-word.
Adams, a stand-up who's appeared on ’BET Live’ and on Oxygen's ’Girls Behaving Badly’ blames his elders for the explosion of the use of the term among the Hip-Hop Generation. ’Where the hell do they think we got it from?’ he asks. ’We didn't invent the word. We learned it from them.’ Excuse me, but isn't it possible that Adams was raised by a couple of self-hating ignoramuses, and that there are many other black households where uttering the epithet would result in your having your mouth washed out with soap?
’Of course, we wanted to use it when we grew up,’ he continues. ’What did they expect us to do, treat the word like we did religion and just forget about it once we grew up and moved away from home?’ Now, that's a hypocritical and very revealing comment, for the author is simultaneously saying he finds it easy to ignore God, but that he can't help but compulsively express the N-word.
Next he says, ’Older generations tend to view history through rose-colored glass,’ implying that people my age look back a little too fondly upon the Civil Rights Era and that we ought to get with program and accept the N-word as a part of everyday conversation. Notice that Nick never indicts whites as the source of the slur, in fact he alleges that blacks were upset when Caucasians stopped using it. So, needing someone to complain about, the old fogeys began unfairly taking their frustration out on their kids for only echoing what they’d heard around the house.
This opening chapter closes with what he calls a ’Niggerlogue’ in which he reminisces that the first nickname his father gave him was ’Big Nigger.’
I don't know, maybe the jokes were lost on me, because Mr. Adams' intended audience is white people. I never found myself even cracking a smile while perusing the pages.
I just came away praying that no one white who might want to befriend me reads this trash and takes any of his inane advice to heart. I remember once hearing Ralph Nader remark that he was wary of comedy because it was often used as a means of communicating hateful ideas you couldn't say in a direct manner.
For this reason, I am concerned about the damage that Making Friends With Black People could cause, even in the name of laughter. For the best thing about it is its inviting cover which features the author's head superimposed on that of the farmer holding the pitchfork in Grant Wood's classic portrait ’American Gothic.’
The lesson learned here is that you still can't judge a book by its cover, anymore than it's fair to think you know all about a person from their skin color.