A book titled How to Be Black throws down a delicious gauntlet. It tells you the author is deeply concerned with blackness but is going to be irreverent about our sacred identity and just might give up the secrets of our religion. Make no mistake: blackness is, for some, religious. There are sacraments, saints and sinners in the National Church of Holy Blackness. How to Be Black is by a church member who doesn’t care: Baratunde Thurston, a comic who writes for the Onion, which loves slicing up sacred cows into burgers of funny. (He opens the chapter on his genealogy by saying, “My family has been black for a long, long time.”) But more than just making jokes, Thurston is tapping in to what might be called black irony.
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