How to Be Black with Baratunde Thurston

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics, and director of digital at The OnionBaratunde Thurston, talks about the complexities of contemporary racial politics in his new book, How To Be Black.  


Baratunde Thurston

Comments [71]

The Izzle from Westchester

I read all the comments before listening to the segment. So I thought it would be pretty lame. However, it was well done. Kudos to the comedian. It was an enjoyable piece. But, it seems haters are just gonna hating. And some people just want any excuse to spew their prejudices online. I have no clue why people are commenting on civil rights, affirmative action, etc.

Feb. 03 2012 10:55 AM
Stirling from Manhattan

I know this is supposed to be humor, but it's not satire: it is a very, very, very old joke. It's one that used to be played by some black people on other black people and anyone else who'd fall for it. It comes out of insecurity and preys on insecurity, and at base is meant to be manipulative and controlling, not funny. (It's origin is lost in the misty, misty past. So-called Negroes used to play it.) I am shocked (and disappointed) that in 2012 a thirtysomething person is still perpetrating this prank. It's tired, it was always lame, and by now it's seriously regressive. --But then, I've never thought The Onion (Thurston's employer) was very funny either. It generally takes a funny premise and then beats it to death. Read the headlines and you've got the jokes. The rest isn't worth reading.

Feb. 02 2012 05:53 PM

"John Peretti AND HIS SISTER"??? Dude!!! I knew of Chelsea Peretti way before I heard she had a brother who did anything interesting. I think they deserve at LEAST equal credit!
Enjoying the segment though!

Feb. 02 2012 01:19 PM
bernie from bklyn

@jack jackson- with all due respect, what are you talking about? your titanic comparison is nonsensical. the community has the ability to change itself if it has the will and the police help. if the people remaining in cities like camden, newark etc. made it their goal to teach their children how to behave like responsible, considerate people then the outcome would be totally different.

Feb. 02 2012 10:26 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey


The 'fallen' aspects of NJ cities - Newark, Camden, Plainfield, etc. - are not the result of the people who stayed in those towns but have been caused by the people who left. They took with them capital, their educations, their higher earning power and a spirit of community that these places could use.

This isn't just 'white flight' but the minority middle class opting not to stay inside the pressure cooker. Your criticism is kinda like blaming the steerage passengers on the Titanic for drowning. They were locked in.

Feb. 02 2012 10:13 AM

I'm black and went with an Irish friend to a great concert called Other Voices last October. I thoroughly enjoyed it! (But no, I hadn't even thought of Irish music before I met my friend -- other than Danny Boy)

Feb. 01 2012 05:21 PM

hilarious but i honestly thought this type of differentiation died sometime around 15 years ago (at least in the nyc area)!

Feb. 01 2012 03:44 PM
glork from Glen Ridge NJ

Go Bernie from Brooklyn who nailed it perfectly. Try growing up in Newark and looking at what it has become now. Who was/is responsible for laying waste to most urban areas? Doesn't seem to be the Chinese or Pakistanis...wait, maybe it's..I know!...the Irish!! This segment is a loser.

Feb. 01 2012 01:25 PM
Natalie from Lower East Side

Best. Show. Evah.

Feb. 01 2012 12:14 PM

Bk from Nj:

Oh, SNAP!!

I love you!!

Feb. 01 2012 12:13 PM's humor.


I like this guy.

Feb. 01 2012 12:11 PM
Bk from Nj

Geez some of you people have no sense of humor. The guy works at The Onion. Go read it and come back when you understand what's being discussed here

Funny segment

As for Martin-
When politicians with all the power bend over backward to appease 2% of the population at conferences like AIPAC, I don't think you need worry about discrimination. There continues to be a forced guilt on people for the horrors of the Holocaust. Well guess what- I am a 36 year atheist who has no problems with any different religions (I think yet are all equally silly!). I hae bo guilt about that its history. I had nothing to do woth it so i camt see how it affects me. Many of these right wing Jewish people could give black people a course on playing the victim card. Nice try.

Feb. 01 2012 12:08 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Yes Martin, call me a hater for pointing out your hypocrisy. You have learned well from your secret Jesse Jackson/Sharpton liberal playbook.

Feb. 01 2012 12:08 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@MartinC -

Affirmative action quotas were outlawed by the Bakke decision in the 70's. Your clinging to the myth is a demonstration of how slow you are on the uptake of new information.

Hiring quotas are another myth, unless the quotas are being enforced as a result of a court decision against an offending employer.

Take a look at Texas which accorded ALL of its population growth to expand GOP districts. Gerrymandering is being practiced heavily by the GOP governors. Gerrymandering is used more often to contain minority voting impact rather than augment it.

Asking for state approved photo ID to vote is an unnecessary burden on a constitutional right. It can disenfranchises some of the people who have been voting LEGALLY the longest. Does your grandmother - if living - have a copy of her birth certificate?

Please, please, please stop leading with your prejudices.

Feb. 01 2012 12:07 PM


Feb. 01 2012 12:04 PM

I'm black and I like Celtic/Irish music. I watch Riverdance and Celtic Women when it is on PBS.

Feb. 01 2012 12:04 PM
William from Manhattan

Good selection, Brian Lehrer team. I'd never heard Baratunde Thurston before this show. Smart & funny - and he really knows how to engage with commenters. Nothing throws him off, but he rides with it - doesn't just give his talking points. Definitely makes me want to read the book.

Feb. 01 2012 12:03 PM

C'mon!!! "bernie" and "Cheesewhiz" really do like black folks.

Feb. 01 2012 12:03 PM
The Truth from Becky

Dark Symbolist & Sheldon, my heroes...always spot on!

Feb. 01 2012 12:02 PM

This is guy is real A-hole. Only a fool would buy his book. What a load....

Feb. 01 2012 12:00 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


Yes, OK, you are correct in feeling so are indeed one of the reliable Jew haters on this site that I was referring to.
Yep, tediously predictable and nasty.
You are one sharp fella to recognize that I was referring to you.

Feb. 01 2012 11:59 AM
Cripus Attucks from USA

How is this book any different from Touré's book?

Feb. 01 2012 11:57 AM
Paige from Manhattan

What do you think of Carlton and Will's relationship on Fresh Prince?

Feb. 01 2012 11:56 AM
April from Manhattan

Question: Why do African Americans from America use the N word while those I ask, recently from Africa, or Haiti say they don't? Does it have to do with defiance? with pride? Of COURSE there are black farmers, but they're not red necks. Supposed to be a joke. I was in the civil rights movement in the south, as were many other white southerners were. Many African Americans here in NYC, either know about us, or are happy to hear about us. Whites often don't know, don't want to know, and don't let us on the air to speak about what we did." The press uses "discrimination" or "lack of diversity" for the North, "racism" for the South. Will they ever let the civil war end. Seems to me we need another movement for financial equality. If you agree, how to organize it? Look forward to reading your book!

Feb. 01 2012 11:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

Baradummy, not funny, I am not amused. Don't you know some people don't get satire? You are personally responsible for all the Ignorant comments below today.

Feb. 01 2012 11:54 AM
Mike from Inwood

I'd like to assure Mr. Thurston that if I ever ask you what you think of Barack Obama, I'm NOT expecting (or hoping) that you will speak for all Black people. I don't speak for all people in any demographic category that I may fit into, although people outside those demographics often expect me to. People who believe they 'represent', or who expect me to, are pains in the butt. Your written work may be tongue-in-cheek, but readers often are not sharp enough to understand this. It's about as funny as middle-aged White men using the 'N' word in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Feb. 01 2012 11:52 AM
Susanna from Montclair

Baratunde, I love how you've spun this challenge of being an ambassador. . . . OH my, I can't write, I'm too busy laughing.
(Thanks, Brian!)

Feb. 01 2012 11:52 AM
Hal from Crown Heights

As a Crown Heights resident for the last ten years, I have a new perspective on what it means to be a person of no color. Some wonder if they should even refer to me as a colorless person. I prefer person without color.

Feb. 01 2012 11:51 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Ha- Martin, ask Asians or most republicans what they (really) think of Jews and you will also get an earful.

It's funny how, even before the segment starts, both you and Bernie started your typical condescending racist, paternalistic "angry Jew" rant about the "shvarts" and their west side liberal (jewish?) enablers, and affirmative action, and welfare, and, crime, and quotas. Let your true racist colors out.

Feb. 01 2012 11:51 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Mr. Thurston, what do all blacks think of Irish Music?

And, we Irish do really love that you all always dress with green on St Patricks Day (bump fists)

Feb. 01 2012 11:51 AM
geo from astoria

This is one the most un-Black people I have ever heard.
he sounds like a gay white guy from a suburb.. and a suburb not near NYC.

I hope this is a joke.

Feb. 01 2012 11:50 AM
Carrie Howerton from Brooklyn

I would like to know how Baratunde, and other people of color, feel about the word "black?" I cannot say "black" without feeling guilty or hear it without cringing. Isn't "people of color" or "African American" gentler?

Feb. 01 2012 11:50 AM
Ali from nyc

you i grew up in the middle east and we never identified people by color?!!! i think its really strange...

Feb. 01 2012 11:49 AM

funny segment, black dude with a diverse group of friends and I can totally relate to the occasional playing of the race card, too funny

Feb. 01 2012 11:48 AM
Rosey from norwalk ct

I think the really interesting part of this book / discussion is that it shows a marked difference about the way his (our) generation deals with and discusses race.

Feb. 01 2012 11:47 AM

This is embarrassing.
And proves my point......humor by making white people feel uncomfortable.

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
Tasha Cox from Atlanta, GA

Nirvana! What about Smashing Pumpkins?! I took all kinds of sh*t for that in HS. Plus, I'm SOOOOOOO tired of explaining my hair to white people, their mothers, their husbands...!

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
David from New York, New York

I understand that the last half hour of Brian's show is always "filler" and always vapid but this is just silly!

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
Mesomiko from UWS

How do I meet black men if my hobbies are hiking, Broadway shows, and horseback riding? Black clubs, join predominately Black church?

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
Iguanaluv from New York, NY

I'm hoping to become a better non-Black friend to my Black friends by listening to this segment.

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
jimmy from nyc

the is the best black people moment on film
from tropic thunder

"what do you mean 'you people'

Feb. 01 2012 11:46 AM
Laura from UWS

A Black American woman told me she wished people would ask her about HER ethnic origins because she has an interesting family history (Blacks from Panama).

What does the guest recommend?

Feb. 01 2012 11:45 AM
Suzanne from Brooklyn

Does Baratunde have any advice for Mitt Romney on how to be black?

Feb. 01 2012 11:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Brian, you should have a show for Jewish white kids who grew up in Brooklyn housing projects, such as myself, and their complex relationship with black people :) There might be an audience of about 10 of us left in NYC.

Feb. 01 2012 11:45 AM
Robert from Bronx

I want to know -- WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT???

Also -- are you sure you are Black? You don't sound very Black. I bet you are not really very Black at all.


Feb. 01 2012 11:45 AM
Rosey from Norwalk CT

This is hilarious!! I love dry humor.


Feb. 01 2012 11:44 AM

Am I racist if I don't like Jazz? Do I get extra points against me if I live in Connecticut?

Feb. 01 2012 11:44 AM
Ron mMwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

come on guys. THIS IS COMEDY. And it is funny

Feb. 01 2012 11:43 AM
denutarab from LA

Oh, my. How NOT to be black:

Feb. 01 2012 11:43 AM
Peggy from New York City

Brian, this is one of the stupidest segments you've ever aired. I find it insulting and condescending.

What a waste of time.


A Black Person

Feb. 01 2012 11:43 AM
Mia from Manhattan

Where does Baratunde come down on the Spike Lee - Tyler Perry rift?

Is it awful that I'm white and I love the Madea character and Tyler Perry's plays?? (Yes, really.)

Feb. 01 2012 11:41 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!


Jews don't need those things, such as affirmative action because despite whatever prejudice they face in society it is NOT an institutional discrimination as directed at blacks due to the history of slavery and apartheid (or segregation as we like to call it here) that Jews did not suffer from in America. No matter which way you slice it, this society is NOT equal. When it becomes equal then you have an argument against affirmative action et al, but until then your points reveal someone who has blinkers on.

Your reactionary message only reveals your prejudice, quite frankly.

That being said, I realize this guy is from the Onion so it is somewhat in jest and snark,etc but this is a stupid segment.

Feb. 01 2012 11:41 AM
The Truth from Becky

Oh I get satire alright...still ridiculous!

Feb. 01 2012 11:40 AM
Dee from Montclair

This is too stupid for words. Are we all out of ideas! I'm changing the station.

Feb. 01 2012 11:40 AM
Iguanaluv from New York, NY

I can't help but wonder how Black people feel about this book/segment. I don't know, is this supposed to be serious or comical? It seems almost too ridiculous to be serious but I'm not Black. Maybe some/all of this segment is important & spoken about by Black people/in the community.

Feb. 01 2012 11:40 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I'm not sure even the guest knows where the winking starts and where ends on this segment... and how much tongue is in the cheek here?

Sorta funny, but a bit under the top....

Hey, is this an early April Fool's segment??

Feb. 01 2012 11:39 AM
Bret from Queens

My 2 black female roommates told me that a lot of white guys will revert to the "uh-huh, you go girlfriend" kind of dialogue when interacting with them. How does gender play into this?

Feb. 01 2012 11:39 AM

My 2 black female roommates told me that a lot of white guys will revert to the "uh-huh, you go girlfriend" kind of dialogue when interacting with them. How does gender play into this?

Feb. 01 2012 11:38 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Bernie and Martin do not understand sarcasm, perhaps because they keep Kosher? And I though Jews had a sense of humor.

Feb. 01 2012 11:38 AM
M from Brooklyn

tongue in cheek huh? still a corny topic - lets get a littl more creative than mining the lazy black-white comedy subject.

Feb. 01 2012 11:38 AM

This whole segment is a waste of time. Idiotic, really.

And I swear if I hear one more piece on Chinese Oreos coming out of 93.9 FM I'm going to throw my radio out the window.

Feb. 01 2012 11:37 AM
Rah from manhattan

I don't think people get SATIRE!

HINT: it's subtle.

VERY FUNNY, Baratunde! Thanks - you're making my day.

Feb. 01 2012 11:37 AM
The Truth from Becky

Why are you telling them all of this?

Feb. 01 2012 11:36 AM
Laura from UWS

Question: anything about the difference between Black (American) and Black (African)?

P.S. Very talented guest! I've read his work, never heard his voice. Thanks.

Feb. 01 2012 11:35 AM
The Truth from Becky


Feb. 01 2012 11:33 AM
Rah from manhattan

Can't we all just get along?

DUH- the guy is a comedian!

Feb. 01 2012 11:33 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Well, gee, despite the fact that Jews still get plenty of discrimination ( e.g. from the likes of you and other drones on this site)…and that this discrimination is now becoming politically acceptable on the Left…. Jews don’t get-
-Affirmative action quotas at all universities (in fact, the quotas hurt Jews)
-hiring quotas – entitlements – special job programs
-wierdly gerrymandered congessional districts to assure adequate “Jewish representation”.
-nobody concocts bizarre arguments that asking for voters to prove they are who they say they are is to “disenfranchise Jews”. (as the NAACP is in court doing now)
Ask Aisan-Americans what they think about this never-ending cult of infantilization of blacks and you will get an earful.

Feb. 01 2012 11:27 AM
jonn knoxx

You do realize this guy works at The Onion, right?


Feb. 01 2012 11:03 AM
The Truth from Becky

Martin and Bernie, the segment has not started but no matter how much you shout "get over it" you cannot undue the past. Does anyone say that to the Jews? or the Native American? No they don't.

Feb. 01 2012 10:40 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


This is now a polyglot immigrant nation of refugees from everywhere and everything. Enough already, it’s embarrassing.

Thurston has a lucrative gig and is living well off the enduring guilt of liberal whites (and WNYC) who never tire of patting blacks on their heads and assuring them that their very special victimhood status still remains intact.

As to the current version of the “civil rights movement” in 2012, the blue collar philosopher, Eric Hoffer, said it best:

“All great movements start out as a noble cause, evolve into a business, and end up as a racket.”

Feb. 01 2012 10:01 AM
bernie from bklyn

mr.thurston is just another in a long line of black excuse-creators. when will he and others who support these theories ever wake-up and realize that the problems with the black community are not economically based and are not caused by some kind of institutionalized racism within the criminal justice system. do black kids get stopped and searched more? yes, they do. why? because most of the crime on the streets is committed by black kids. sorry, but that's the cold, hard truth. ever get jacked up by a poor chinese kid? ever get jacked up by a poor pakistani kid? no, i didn't think so....
does he think that the generations of poor immigrants that have made this country their home after the atrocity of slavery care one bit about the fact that you are descended from slaves? they don't. because they had nothing to do with it and they have had horrific situations that they escaped as well. ENOUGH, no one wants to hear it anymore. you'll keep making your excuses and generations of new americans will keep passing you by. it's your choice, what are you going to do?

Feb. 01 2012 09:00 AM

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