Baratunde Thurston

“A lot of white people like black people. They buy hip-hop, they watch black athletic and sports figures, and it’s superpopular — from jazz through hip-hop. Having a black friend is a mark of progressive success as a white person. And the black person is usually seen as their asset. It’s like: I’m cooler by proxy. … What black people get in the white community [is having] a covert operative behind enemy lines. You have a trusted source who can shuttle information back and forth. It’s like the Cold War. It’s a back channel that prevents race wars from blowing up. So if your white friend has a question about something, they can ask you, their trusted black friend, and you can feed them real or false information, depending on your purposes, but they don’t have to make an assumption or a leap that ends up in a more awkward, more public moment.”

– Baratunde Thurston on learning how important it is to have a black friend if you’re a white person, and vice versa

I love my devices and services, and I love being connected to the global hive mind. I am neither a Luddite nor a hermit, but I am more aware of the price we pay: lack of depth, reduced accuracy, lower quality, impatience, selfishness, and mental exhaustion, to name but a few. In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them…
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Baratunde Thurston 

From his piece #Unplug: Baratunde Thurston left the internet for 25 days, and you should too.

Here’s more about #unplugging

“Just over one year ago, I traded in my subway pass for Roxie, my pink Schwinn cruiser. She was given to me by my Dutch friend, Kirsten, who bought it off of a Brooklyn-based Haitian voodoo doctor whose colorblind son originally bought it thinking it was blue. One day I was riding through Brooklyn and a teenaged black boy yelled at me as I rode past, ‘Normally I would make fun of a dude riding a big pink bike, but your arms are so big, I don’t wanna mess with you.’”

Baratunde Thurston was photographed in New York City on June 27th. You can follow him on Twitter.

I hate the franchise. I think it is bad for America and little girls. You basically got this stalker vampire who’s basically abusing this low self-esteem child, and that is hailed as a great image of love and respect. Because I have read the books and suffered through them, I wanted to prevent others from falling into that same fate. So on opening weekend, I go to the theater, I sit in the back to not disturb people, and I live hate-tweet the film. And that just means I tweet in real-time with hate. I absolutely disdain this franchise. So I’m describing the storyline through my eyes and what the story really means, and it’s proved very popular. And most importantly, I’ve prevented people from spending their hard-earned money.
—  Baratunde Thurston hate-tweets Twilight. Here’s why.

Here are four things that Baratunde Thurston realized during his 25-day hiatus from the internet:

1. I had become obsessed with The Information.

2. I shared too much.

3. I was addicted to myself.

4. I forsook the benefits of the Industrial Age.

“The greatest gift I gave myself was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness. I don’t need to fill every time slot with an appointment, and I don’t need to fill every mental opening with stimulus.”

On today’s Fresh Air, Baratunde Thurston explains How To Be Black: “My version of being black adheres as much to the stereotypes as it dramatically breaks from them. And that’s probably true for most of you reading this: if not about blackness itself, then about something related to your identity. Through my story, I hope to expose you to another side of the black experience while offering practical, comedic advice based on my own painful lessons learned.”

Just as smartphones revolutionized how we avoid talking to each other and food trucks changed our tolerance for eating while standing on the street, the emergence of data science as a vehicle for expression is going to radically change how we create. It gives us a new way to tell the story of the world around us. Even if it’s just to find out how racist our current location is.
It was my first day at Sidwell. A black student who had been at the school for a really long time was assigned to be my buddy and adjust me to the environment. And he asked if I knew what an Oreo was. We were in the first stairwell of the upper-school building, in the southeast corner, I remember all this. And I really thought he was talking about cookies. I said, ‘Yeah, it’s the cream-filled cookie from Nabisco.’ And he’s like, 'No, no man. Oreo’s someone who is black on the outside and white on the inside.’ And then he made an example. He pointed to a kid across the way and said, 'That kid’s an Oreo.’ And I didn’t know the kid’s name at the time — I saw this nerdy black kid with glasses hanging out with white friends … And that was the first introduction of this concept, inauthentic blackness because you’re comfortable around whiteness.
Are White People Voting for Mitt Romney Because He's White?

Hi, I’m Black. What’s up? Cool….

We’ve all seen a million blog posts and articles arguing that because Barack Obama is darker than a paper bag, Black people just cannot hold back their votey-lust for him. I’m not entirely sure why it’s okay to not only assume, but also defend that Black people are so ignorant about issues and so blindly loyal to a President with such a solid economic, diplomatic, and social issues track record–but that’s old news. Didn’t we cover this in 2008? I wanna talk about White people.

For the record, I mean White people as a whole. I could acknowledge that White people are individuals too and that they perhaps vote on issues that matter to them or for other …I could not care less about your individual White feelings in this context, because this is how you report on things in 2012… Just let me wax poetic about your entire race and why they vote the way they do. It goes a little something like this:

A brief overview of American History will tell you that we have had 43 White US Presidents. It will also tell you that we’ve only had 44 US Presidents. Under the premise that people simply vote based on race, I guess that means White people have a predilection for voting for other White people. Perhaps, then, the 11% of voters that are African American only really impacted the 2008 election because Barack Obama is actually half-white, thus getting 50% of the White Vote as well (this is just science based on nothing–like most blog posts about politics).

Or maybe, there is a secret bi-racial voting demographic that only voted for the first time in 2008, too.

Did you know that not one single Black person ever voted before the year 2008 (shhhh….who needs facts?). After all, you can’t vote for a Black person if no major political parties have a Black nominee. In a non-satirical article, this might be the part where you delve into the reason why there haven’t been any Black presidential nominees for a major party going into a November election prior to Barack Obama, and what greater meaning that voting for him might symbolize to the world as a whole…

Regardless, Mitt Romney may be the whitest presidential nominee we’ve ever seen. I literally saw a picture of him eating a mayonnaise sandwich just yesterday.* I can understand why that might wake up some of those White voters that remembered Obama’s White mama just 4 years ago. Maybe, they will switch their vote back to what is oh-so normal for people of different races. 

I think the bottom line is that people can pretty much vote for whatever reason they want. I think it’s much easier (albeit much more lamentable) to make assumptions about people who vote differently than you, who also look differently than you. Perhaps instead of wasting anymore time throwing race into every election with someone who hasn’t had a sunburn, perhaps it’s time to grow up and talk about the issues that really matter.

*It may have just been a guy that looked like Mitt Romney eating a mayonnaise sandwich. 

A lot of white people like black people. They buy hip-hop, they watch black athletic and sports figures and it’s super popular — from jazz through hip-hop. Having a black friend is a mark of progressive success as a white person. And the black person is usually seen as their asset. It’s like: I’m cooler by proxy.

“It’s irresponsible not to use the tools of the day,” he charges. “People say, Oh, if I master Twitter, I’ve got it figured out. That’s right, but it’s also so wrong. If you master those things and stop, you’re just going to get killed by the next thing. Flexibility of skills leads to flexibility of options. To see what you can’t see coming, you’ve got to embrace larger principles.”

Generation Flux: Baratunde Thurston