Ben Passmore‘s necessary contribution to the dialogue around race in the United States, Your Black Friend is a letter from your black friend to you about race, racism, friendship and alienation.
The revised print edition of the Your Black Friend comic is in gorgeous full color on fancy matte paper stock.
Inspired by Frantz Fanon’s White Skin, Black Masks, Your Black Friend is just as direct, immediate, and necessary as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.
SC, 12 full-color pages, 5.5″ x 8.5″
SILVER #66; ISBN: 978-1-945509-03-2
Purchase: Silver Sprocket Store
Adapted earlier this year into a three-minute animated film, the titular “Your Black Friend” is a small masterpiece of storytelling, articulating the daily stress of one man’s social relationships with white people — even and especially “allies.” It uses the economy of comics — and its ability to deploy art and color to undercut its own prose voice — to present the discomforting relationship between those who move through the world feeling unmarked by racial expectations and those who have to contend with them at every turn.
Ben Passmore’s slim, 11-page mini-comic is an open letter, written in the second person, consisting of a litany of gentle admonitions for well-meaning but racially tone-deaf white people: “Your black friend hates that you slide into ‘black’ presentations thoughtlessly. He feels like you’re mocking him, but knows that you are totally unaware of this … Your black friend wishes you would play more than Beyonce. There are more black performers than Beyonce and he’s worried you don’t know that.” That last sentiment is matched to a panel in which a clueless white guy sings along to “Formation,” while his black friend shoots a hilariously weary side-eye at the reader. Your Black Friend is by far the shortest comic to make this list, but there is nothing slight about it. Beneath its sardonic tone lies a truth that is urgent, sincere and deeply affecting.
Passmore aims to alert white readers about how some of their (usually) well-meaning communications come across to that “black friend” of theirs. He especially addresses the emotional discomfort around race that can sidetrack encounters. Drawn from his own experiences and friends’ accounts, these vignettes add direct yet gentle commentary addressed to blacks as well as whites and delivered with humor to defuse some of the tensions likely in personal conversations. Buy multiple copies. Watch for Passmore’s forthcoming Your Black Friend and Other Strangers.
It’s entertaining and comical and heartbreaking, everything an eye-opening experience should be.
Required reading for white people, especially if we hope to be useful allies and decent friends.
In his comic Your Black Friend, for instance, Ben Passmore tells a story about the sorts of casual, everyday racism and microaggressions that virtually every black person has experienced at one point in their lives and distills it into a simple scenario that even the most un-woke white person can understand.
Powerful and possibly one of the best I’ll read this year.
Simply put: this work is genius…smart and funny and blisteringly honest and sad. It’s all of that and more, a feat with the most excellent of intentions.