Review: He Talk Like a White Boy

Reflections on Faith, Family, Politics, and Authenticity

by Joseph C. Phillips, Foreword by Tavis Smiley
Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers
Review by D.S. White for Active Christian Media


"...I was determined that if I didn't learn to like rap, I would at least develop a working knowledge of the music so I could discuss it intelligently. I dashed out to the music store and bought CDs by Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, and a list of other artists who were hot at the time. The only ground rule I set was that I had to play each album all the way through at least once. As an illustration of my lack of commitment, I soon decided that playing an album all the way through didn't necessarily mean I had to be in the same room while it played. Strictly speaking, so long as the album played all the way through. I didn't even have to be in the apartment. I will never forget putting NWA (Niggaz with Attitude) on the stereo. I almost broke my neck sprinting across my apartment to turn the volume down when 'F**k the Police' began blasting through the building."


The above quote is one of the many reasons completion of this book was mandatory. By its very title, this book makes a provocative statement which is ably reinforced by its content. The author, Joseph C. Phillips is an actor, writer, lecturer, and social commentator best known for his role on The Cosby Show as the character Denise's (Lisa Bonet) husband, Lt. Martin Kendall. He has also appeared in such films as Strictly Business, Midnight Blue, and Let's Talk about Sex. As a writer and social commentator, Joseph's work has appeard in Newsweek, Lost Angeles Daily News, Essence, Upscale, and USA Today. His weekly column,"The Way I See It", appears in newspapers around the country. He was also a regular contributor to NPR's Tavis Smiley Radio Show. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

The book is a collection of essays divided into the following themes:

  • Character
  • Family
  • Faith
  • Idealism; and
  • Identity

The author's love of his country is interwoven throughout the book. His dispair for the incremental demise of the family rings loud and clear as well as his battle to be all he can be: as a man who is black, is educated, is a conservative, is a husband, is a man of God--but most of all as a man who wants to be a good father.

He declares his political views with such conviction, that whether you agree or disagree with his stance, you're left with a sense of admiration for someone who is not afraid to stand tall and proud for their beliefs. At times the weight of the author's burden to push himself to the next level, while wading against the tide of unpopularity of his political beliefs, exhibits itself as a tad overbearing or maybe even a bit pompous. But right at the point that you're about to say, "Enough already," he pokes fun at himself with a scene like the one above which compels you to laughter; (out loud on a crowded bus) or another moves you to tears, (again on a crowded bus) and yet another fills you with gratitude and pride in being an American. (Swelling of the chest thankfully not readily apparent on said crowded bus.)

This book does what a good book should: it prods you out of your sense of complacency with your accomplishments in life and causes you to question whether you're trying to be all you can be for God, man and country.

Rating:
This book earned 4 out 5 stars for humor, honesty, faith, marital perseverance, parenting efforts, and writing style. However, I would have liked to see a few less big words.

Comparable books (from Amazon.com):

  • The Covenant with Black America by Tavis Smiley
  • Letters to a Young Brother : MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
  • Never Mind Success - Go For Greatness! : The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received by Tavis Smiley
  • Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter
  • Race Matters (Vintage) by Cornel West

Recommendation:
I am glad to have had the opportunity to share a piece of the author's heart and soul. I encourage you to purchase yourself a copy.

"Joseph. Thanks for sharing."

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