The Black Punk, the Black Geek, and Other Black People You Don't Meet on TV

Baratunde Thurston's How To Be Black is neither peevish gripe nor venomous attack. Like the best satire, it convinces with wit and compassion, and offers readers a vision of a better America that's entirely within reach. 

In spite of the election of a black president in 2008, the representation of black people in American media remains pretty monolithic; we get (more or less) the Sports Star, The Musician, and the Criminal. And black women are almost completely invisible. There's the rare (and not very mainstream) exception – the Boondocks, for example – but for the most part what I'm saying is an uncomfortable yet undeniable truth. 


Baratunde Thurston's How To Be Black is one response to this reality – an attempt to complicate the picture through satire. Thurston assembled for the book an "expert panel of black people," none of whom fits any discernable stereotype, and asked them questions about what it means to be black in "Post-racial" America. What emerges is a picture of smart young Americans trying to be their complicated selves – and succeeding brilliantly – amid unconscious pressure from friends, family, and strangers to conform to predetermined limitations on "blackness." 

The book is neither peevish gripe nor venomous attack. Like the best satire, it convinces with wit and compassion, and offers readers a vision of a better America that's entirely within reach. 

Baratunde Thurston on life in "Post-racial" America

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less