Jessica's Reviews > Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend by Ben Philippe
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it was ok

This book had the potential to be good but never quite made it there. Philippe tried to take too many angles: Is it a memoir? Is it a tongue-in-cheek handbook for white friends? Is it a self-deprecating humor book? Is it an educational book on race? The end result was not, alas, a laugh-out-loud memoir seamlessly supported with cultural context, but a random assortment of essays that jump around different points of Philippe's life and self-consciously break the fourth wall far too often. He frequently talks about being a self-centered asshole, and unfortunately his stories affirm that more often than they contradict it, even though he has full rein to give his side of the story. The editing was also sorely lacking, as the verb tenses are all over the place (even sometimes within the same sentence), and there's a whole section where he reviews his life in second person ("You are X years old...") except that he occasionally inserts first-person sentences. It's clear from the way he talks about the book itself in the book that he doesn't actually know what exactly he's trying to accomplish, and the very end is an awkward ramble about how he doesn't know how to end the book. He doesn't seem to have checked any of his memories against his mother's or friends' while writing the book, as he'll often interrupt a story to say he doesn't remember this or that detail but never mentions how anyone else remembers the same incident.

There are certainly memorable passages and a handful of lines I highlighted. Where his personal narrative came through all the self-conscious ramblings, I appreciated hearing about his life as a Haitian immigrant to Canada who ended up in the United States long term. However, I think ultimately this book was an interesting premise that fell through in the execution. If he'd made it strictly a memoir, it might have worked better, but then again it seems that Philippe, at 31, simply doesn't have enough of a grasp on the narrative of his life to write the kind of retrospective yet. It was an interesting attempt, but I'm glad to be done with it now.
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Quotes Jessica Liked

Ben Philippe
“It’s not always hatred or disdain that makes your skin crawl. In fact, sometimes, it’s the exact opposite: Some people will easily love your Blackness. They will respond to it, gravitate toward it, see it before they even see the rest of you. And once they see it and classify it into their preferred category, they won’t bother to look any further. The rest of you is just a skeleton holding up that beautiful Black skin.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“To this day, I tend to victim-blame people who come back from vacation with green hair or complaining about anything other than getting sunburnt at the beach. Slipping on a rock while climbing waterfalls during your spring break trip to Cenote Tres Oches of Homún, Mexico, and breaking an ankle? Why were you there? Who told you that would be a good idea? Were you taking a selfie? Like, why would you put yourself in that position? Respect the waters, for they are deep and insidious.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“Dating apps and websites are the Wild West of interpersonal connections. It is not virtual speed-dating; it is virtual spam-folder cleaning with people you might want to meet instead of emails. Yes, you might upgrade someone to your regular inbox if you find their content appealing, but you are mostly browsing through bulk advertisement that either does not speak to you or is packaged in a way that feels too good to be true.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“No one is apolitical. Not a single person. The few people I’ve met who proudly consider themselves as such tend to assume that not paying attention, not voting, isn’t in itself a privilege. That it is not in itself proof that their day-to-day existence won’t be affected by choosing to stay on the sidelines, tending to literal gardens. The fact of the matter is that if you have a life that leaves you foolproof to politics, your politics approximate to “privileged.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“I see “Anti-Antifa” T-shirts, which is just grammatically redundant. There’s an easier word there.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“I eat nachos in bed, balancing my phone on my stomach, watching with dead eyes the accounts of tearful anguished white protestors sitting on sidewalks watering their pepper-sprayed eyes, not understanding how a cop would do this to them. It genuinely confuses them. Surely, they can’t all just be noticing now? You’re supposed to throw the rope down; not jump in with us, I think. I want them to take me to the safe and shiny world they were in until a few days ago, not for them to be beaten and abused in mine.”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“I can understand having been raised to believe that cops are the good guys, that racism lives in the uneven icing and not the flour and milk of the great American cake, but how can some Americans hear all these stories, line up all these body bags, and somehow still think we’re all lying? That lightning struck all these Black men randomly and without malice or systemic ease?”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump

Ben Philippe
“How many others have there been that you and I will never hear about? How many Black hearts were violently stopped between Emmett Till and George Floyd? Away from crowds and before cell phone cameras?”
Ben Philippe, Sure, I'll Be Your Black Friend: Notes from the Other Side of the Fist Bump


Reading Progress

January 31, 2021 – Shelved
May 5, 2021 – Started Reading
May 10, 2021 – Finished Reading

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