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He Talk Like a White Boy by Joseph Phillips

Posted by Sherry on 6/26/2006 in General |

He may talk like a white boy, but because he’s not white and because he’s a well-known actor, he gets away with saying things that no “white boy” could ever mention without being called epithets that are better omitted from a family-friendly blog.

For instance, one of the chapters in this book is called “The Arrogance of Reparations.” Mr. Phillips exposes the essential silliness of plans to make twenty-first century Americans pay reparations for nineteenth century slavery: ” . . . there is nothing fair about converting the fruit of one man’s labor into the property of another man. Slavery does not cease to be repugnant because it is washed with indignation or good intentions. It is immoral whether committed with whips and chains or by forcing reparations from people who were never slave owners to people who were never slaves.”

Mr. Phillips is best known for his acting role as the husband of Lisa Bonet’s character, Denise, in the TV comedy The Cosbys. He also writes a weekly newspaper column, and many of the essays in his book seem to have been drawn from his newspaper writings. He’s one of those exceptions to the rule, two rules in fact; he’s a black Hollywood conservative. As if it weren’t enough to break those rules, he’s also a Christian. So you could read his book just for the novelty of it.

Mr. Phillips provides more than just novelty, however, as he writes on such topics as black pride, moral values and family values, rap music and soul, his baptism, and race and racism. The insights in this book, while not original, are certainly worth a few hours invested in the review of some time-tested truths. For example:

“When children are taught that values are without purpose, that morality is subject to opinion, and honor is a commodity to be bought and sold on a whim, it is no wonder they smirk and disrespect their elders.” p.33

“Charity is moral and worthy of praise because it is the voluntary choice to respond to those in need. When government makes that choice for us, it is not charity but despotism.” p.125

However, the most thought-provoking parts of Mr. Phillips’ book are those in which he discusses race and racial identity. Because, he is not a stereotypical black American, Joseph Phillips has faced misunderstanding and accusations of not being ‘black enough.” He has struggled to understand how much of his identity as a person depends on the color of his skin and how he can fit into American society as not just a man and an actor, but as a black man whose “race” is an inevitable part of what other people see when they see him, an inevitable part of the image he sees in the mirror. I think readers will find Mr. Phillips’ observations both challenging and enlightening as they read about his very individual quest in search of authenticity as a man, and particularly as a black American, in He Talk Like a White Boy.

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