Making The Most of The Time We Have

Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.

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Your Black Friend, Fred Joseph

Your Black Friend, Fred Joseph

Whether he’s empowering kids around the world to see the film Black Panther or providing food and shelter to thousands of families during the Covid pandemic, Frederick Joseph is a tireless agent of social change. His book, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, is a gateway for both young people and adults to talk about racism and how to combat it. Fred and Annmarie discuss what it means to be an accomplice, the obligations of white privilege, antiracist teachings, and how to use Twizzlers as a straw.

Episode sponsor: Books Are Magic, in Brooklyn, NY -- https://www.booksaremagic.net/...

Fred Joseph’s book -- The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person

Fred and Annmarie reference a number of books, movies, and songs in this episode. Here are some of them:

How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

White Fragility, by Robin Diangelo

The film Malcolm X

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

In case you are one of the remaining seventeen people who have not yet seen Black Panther, here’s the trailer

Naima,” by John Coltrane

The show This Is Us

If you need a quick pick-me-up, here’s one of Fred’s go-to songs:

This Is It,” by Kenny Loggins

Also, here are links to Fred and Annmarie’s favorite ice cream flavor, Mint Chocolate Cookie:

https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/mint-chocolate-cookie-ice-cream

Folks in Annmarie’s hometown can find it every March at Mitchell’s ice cream -- https://mitchellshomemade.com/...

You can follow Fred on social media:

Twitter: @FredTJoseph

Instagram: @fredtjoseph

Facebook: @fredericktjoseph

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York, home to exciting new releases and beloved classics. Nooks for children and books to read in them, gumballs filled with poetry, author panels almost every night of the week, story times on the weekend, and plenty of magic.

Annmarie Kelly:
I am Annmarie Kelly. Welcome to Wild Precious Life, a podcast about dreaming big and making real connections. In each episode, I talk to prize winning writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs who teach all of us how to make the most of the time we have. For Christmas last year, my daughter gave me Fred Joseph's book, On Being a Better White Person. At first, I was not entirely sure how to receive this information. I mean, was my daughter calling me racist on Christmas? And anyway, wasn't I already a pretty good person? I mean, I make my kids say please. They write thank you notes for their birthday presents. We bring food to mommies when they have new babies. I don't punch people.

Annmarie Kelly:
But then I read the book, and I sat with it for a while. Because if this past year has taught me anything, it's that while I have spent plenty of time trying to be a good person, I have not spent much time thinking about what it means to try to be a better white person. For a lot of us, as Fred and I discussed in this interview, we were taught not to talk about race, as though if we called attention to race, we were part of the problem. But I think what anti-racist books have taught me, especially in this past year, is that if we call attention to race, that can be part of the solution. If we want to correct inequity in our schools, in our workplaces, in our communities, then we need to talk sometimes about uncomfortable topics.

Annmarie Kelly:
So Fred and I do that today. And you guys, talking about race is hard. Listening back to this interview, I think I sound nervous because I know how easy it is to say the wrong thing. But I think that's part of trying to be a better person, and in fact, part of being a better white person. Whether I admit it or not, I have this privilege. And it's time for me to think harder about how I use it. So let's get started.

Annmarie Kelly:
Fredrick Joseph is an award winning marketing professional, activist, philanthropist, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person. Writing from the perspective of a friend, Fred offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and shares conversations with prominent artists and activists about theirs. The book is an essential read both for white folks who are committed anti-racists and those new to the cause of social justice.

Annmarie Kelly:
Fred is also the sole creator of the largest GoFundMe campaign in history, the Black Panther Challenge which raised over $950,000 and allowed children worldwide to see the Black Panther for free. He is the creator of the largest individual COVID-19 support effort, The Rent Relief Campaign, which has raised over $1 million. Fred has been a humanitarian of the year and a member of The Root 100 list of most influential African-Americans.

Annmarie Kelly:
Fred writes about marketing, culture, and politics for many news outlets, including The Huffington Post, USA Today, NowThisNews, The Independent, and AdWeek.

Annmarie Kelly:
Fred Joseph, welcome to Wild Precious Life.

Fred Joseph:
Hi. I want to first say I'm sorry. There's a much shorter bio that you should've been sent because that was a bit obnoxious.

Annmarie Kelly:
Are you kidding me? The whole time I'm like, "Man, how did we get this guy? Those people who are booking the show, we need to pay them more." You're spiffy. That's all right. You're good. Own it. That's wonderful.

Annmarie Kelly:
Well, we're glad to have you here. And full disclosure, I read your book the first time and I just ignored all the homework. So it said stop here if you haven't, because I didn't know I was going to talk to you. So I read it. And then I saw your name on the list. I'm like, "I got to go back." And the number of lessons I failed, I had read most of the books you recommended and I had seen many of the films, but music, oh my Lord. It turns out I am white after all, and I'm not sure I told the audience, that folks, it turns out I am white. I am so white, I saw New Kids on the Block three times in concert. The most recent time just a few years ago.

Annmarie Kelly:
But anyway, I had heard Coltrane, but I didn't know Naima. I knew Nellie but not the song you played at the party. Man, I wanted you to be wrong about me. And I kept having to put the book down as you suggest and go do my white lady homework.

Fred Joseph:
It's funny. I think a lot of people wanted me to be wrong about them, and I thought about that as I was writing the book. And I think it's a cheat code because I'm also a marketer. So I have a background in understanding demographics. Obviously no two people are alike, but some things just align with, you know?

Annmarie Kelly:
I wanted to be like, "You don't know me." And then I would turn the page and I'm like, "Damn it." It's all good. It was the ruthless self-examination that is honest to God called for here.

Annmarie Kelly:
I think the first time I even ever heard any of your first names was for the Black Panther campaign. So I would love for you to tell folks who are listening who maybe don't know about that, what that was and why it was so important to you.

Fred Joseph:
Yes. So a few years ago when Black Panther was coming out, it was one night interestingly enough, I was just babysitting my little brother. He was six, five at the time rather. And the Black Panther commercial came on as we were watching something, and I just saw how excited he was. He's just like, "Oh my God, I can't wait to see that." And I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, I'll take you to see it." I'm a big kind of book nerd so I couldn't wait either.

Fred Joseph:
And then something dawned on me. I said, "Not a lot of kids are going to be able to see this." Or rather, there are many kids that won't be able to see it, many kids that'd see it, but there are many kids that wouldn't be able to. And I said, "I want to give the opportunity to as many kids as possible to see this film, because this is something we haven't seen before in our society, an Afro futurist black feminist film in this way. Every kid needs to see it."

Fred Joseph:
So I started out, I developed the strategy for how I could crowdfund to make this campaign much bigger, and ultimately, it became something I didn't expect quite frankly.

Annmarie Kelly:
You popped up on my radar again for the Rent Relief campaign. Same question with this, which is just what was it? And then I'm interested also in how long it took to get from the idea to the implementation, because I feel like we had not been in the pandemic for that long. Most of us were still trying to figure out how to eat, and you are raising money and helping people out. So I'd love to hear what it was for people at home, but also, how you got from idea to implementation so quickly?

Fred Joseph:
Yeah. So Rent Relief came from a conversation with GoFundMe. When the pandemic started, I already knew the impact that it would have on the most marginalized in our community, people living in poverty, especially those who are non-white, and I said I wanted to do something. So I raised money for The New York Food Bank, and I think we raised enough for 200,000 meals. And that was the first thing we did.

Fred Joseph:
What happened was, I was noticing that, or rather I was asking them how long would it take for people to receive these meals, because people were losing their jobs, people weren't going into, bla, bla, bla. They said, "Well, a lot of people, for them it's going to probably take a month to receive these meals because we have to do all this work." It was just a ton of red tape, a ton of bureaucracy, a ton of processes and procedures. And I'm like, "Well, people are going hungry, children are literally going to die." And they're like, "Well, that's just the process. We weren't prepared for this."

Fred Joseph:
So when I was speaking to GoFundMe, I said, "Is there something else we could do?" And we came up with this idea of direct giving. Instead of raising money to give money to an organization, give it to the people so that they could go out and get their own food, go out and pay their own bills, so on and so forth. So Rent Relief was born, and what it was basically was essentially, I was like, "Hey, we're going to just give $200 to people via cash app, Venmo, Zelle, and we're going to turn that around super quickly. If you donate $10, that will go towards somebody getting $200 in the next few minutes."

Fred Joseph:
So we quickly got to about a million dollars raised, and we donated to about 10,000 families within a month and a half. And then we started getting some other groups involved, and I think to this day it's gotten up to 4 or 4.5 million raised.

Annmarie Kelly:
I mean, it just blows my mind. First off, thank you. Second off, thank you to your mom for raising someone with the kind of heart that doesn't just shake your head and be like, "Oh! What can we do." But I love that urgency. I follow the Black Fairy Godmother on Instagram. And there is something about urgency. She's saying, "The family needs diapers yesterday." And when I know that it's going right there, that changes the way I donate, the way I contribute, the way I feel moved. Instead of just go into some entity that's going to at some point get it to maybe those people after the paperwork is filed, there is something about that urgency I think that changes the way people behave, which is another reason I thought that your Rent Relief campaign was so important.

Annmarie Kelly:
So then that leads me to in between raising all this money and living in a pandemic, I would love to hear what ever tips you have for being both a writer and a change agent for just also cranking out this book. So do you ever sleep? What is your wisdom for all this?

Fred Joseph:
It's funny. Many people don't know this but when I was about 24 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And at the time I was in grad school for my MBA which I finished up in NY. That moment in time made me reevaluate every single thing about not myself but the world around us.

Fred Joseph:
You start looking at life in this way of how long am I going to be here and what have I done with my time while I've been here. And therefore I try to optimize every single second, every single moment of the day, and fill the gaps of society where I feel like I might be able to. Like the Black Panther Challenge was filling the gap of helping provide joy. Rent Relief was filling the gap of helping provide funds and meals and rent and things of that nature. My debut book was to help fill the gap of just ignorance.

Fred Joseph:
I think we do a not so good job but it is the job that we do of teaching historical context, slavery, Jim Crow, things of that nature. We don't even do enough work in that realm as I just said. But what we don't really talk about at all is the daily manifestations, the microaggressions, the through line from slavery and Jim Crow to touching black women's hair, to the rage that leads to an insurrection and things of that nature.

Annmarie Kelly:
No, that's very true, that's very true. Growing up the way I think I did, and you and I are similar in age though I'm definitely older, we were taught you don't talk about race, at least in schools, we just didn't. We don't mention it. And if we don't talk about it, maybe the problem will go away. I don't know if that was your experience, but in schools anyway, we tried not to mention it too much because people might get mad. Do you know what I mean, that there was this-

Fred Joseph:
Yeah, yeah-

Annmarie Kelly:
... ignorance that way.

Fred Joseph:
Oh, for sure. I think, it's interesting, and I say this in the book. I don't think that I became in tune or astute to some of my own issues that I was dealing with on a regular basis until I got to college. I was someone who was trying to survive as opposed to trying to aspire to, if you would. And this is I think a misstep right now in a failing conversation with an anti-racist movement. Racists conditioning, white supremacists conditioning doesn't just impact the oppressors. It impacts the oppressed. Therefore, many people who belong to oppressed groups, not even just in race, in gender and in class uphold the very things that oppress them. So all that to say you are 100% correct in terms of how we were taught and how we were brought up.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yeah. And I think that, I have kids 16, 11, and 8, so your letter to your little brother who was roughly around the same age as my son really hit home with me, that we're teaching them different, we're teaching them better. There is a ton of dialogue in this country and it is necessary and it is right. And we should be appalled that we are struggling with the kind of issues that we're still struggling with. People are turning in their graves to say how do you not have this done yet. But something I do think we're doing better and I think that you have contributed to is we are talking to our kids about these issues.

Annmarie Kelly:
And my kids are not afraid. My child, my 16 year old gave this to me for Christmas. And I opened it and I didn't equate you with you. Do you ever do that? I'm like, "Oh, that guy." I don't know it was ... So I'm like, "Huh, how to be a better white person? My child is calling me a racist for Christmas. Wow."

Annmarie Kelly:
But a lot of us have learned from you mentioned anti-racism from Ibram X. Kendi and others that becoming anti-racist requires self-awareness and self-criticism and self-examination. Becoming a parent requires those things. I'm a good mom and I thought, "Well, let me read this book and figure out why the heck my child gave it to me, because something, I am sending some signals to her." And then when I asked her about it yesterday when I told her I was talking to you, she's like, "Oh no. I just saw it on a list at my school."

Annmarie Kelly:
We have read it together since then. It's been really amazing because there's this tone in your book, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person that is sort of like critiquing with love and friendship.

Annmarie Kelly:
The way we talk to our friends is different than the way we yell at each other in Twitter. And I know there's a time and a place for both, but I think sometimes we yell at each other so much on Twitter that we can't ever talk to each other like friends. And then, at least I know folks shut down. They're not willing to see where they can change or make a change because they're not willing to see the problem because they're feeling canceled or threatened or like I don't want to engage in discourse about race because what if I say the wrong thing. And so they're afraid to even engage.

Annmarie Kelly:
I thought that the conversation between you and Jemele Hill in the book, for those who don't know, The Black Friend weaves in I mean dozens of other voices. They're all ... These are people like Angie Thomas is in there, Jemele Hill is in there. You weave in these other voices, and she says that talking about race is supposed to bring us closer together. And I'm just wondering, have you found that to be true? Do you really believe that talking about race is bringing people together?

Fred Joseph:
My answer honestly is no. I think that talking about race ... It's funny. I don't know if you're a fan of comic book movies or anything like that, but people, a lot of people that go see Marvel's End Game and Marvel's Infinity War and all those huge movies and they hadn't seen the other films. And the movies were good still, but there is something missing if you weren't along the ride.

Fred Joseph:
And I equate this moment to that because I think that there's still a certain fragility within white people which is some of the work of Robin De Angelo, that even now as people are talking about race, their fragility instead of looking at it in two ways, like, "Okay, well, I'm pouring from the cup of non-white people and I also need to replenish that cup," people are just pouring from it. I don't know if it's bringing us together as much as white people are learning, but there's another side of the conversation that needs to be had about the people who are teaching, if that makes sense.

Annmarie Kelly:
No, I think that does make sense. I was thinking of your book as kind of a gateway book that makes it sound like a drug, but I'm going to go with it. We're going to go with it. I've read Toni Morrison and Malcolm X and Zora Neale Hurston, but my daughter hasn't. I've seen Selma but my kid hasn't. And I found the two of us meeting here at your book is kind of a gateway, for me it's a gateway into pop culture conversations, conversations she and I have had about hair and songs and the n-word where I as a older woman had not really thought about things the way your book presented. So I saw this as not an end point but a gateway book for us to start a conversation that we weren't having.

Fred Joseph:
I think that the issue, and I kind of jumped right to this fully on in the book is that there are people who have watched the movies, there are people who have read the books. There's a certain liberal intellectualism about race that happens. And people forget that race is not just what we read or see in films. Race happens on a daily basis in the way we perceive, the way we breathe, the way we sit, eat, dress.

Fred Joseph:
And that's what I'm trying to get into in this, so that when people are getting to Morrison, are getting to [inaudible 00:18:42], are getting to Malcolm, they're looking at it through the lens of both, yeah, these are amazing stories and people that I'm reading about and I'm understanding the nuance of how Jim Crow manifested in the Black Panther and so on and so forth, but also what was Fred Hampton going through as a man, like what was his wife going through as a mother? And I try to touch on that in this book, talking about more personal experiences as opposed to systems necessarily, if any of that makes sense.

Fred Joseph:
And I think that's why some of this moment is failing at times. I think there's some great work being done, but I think at times it's failing because people are thinking so much about systems as opposed to individuals. And that's an issue of our society, like, "Yeah, yeah, we have to push back against police brutality." And yet still, when people are sending me death threats, people are like, "Why didn't you call the cops?" Like, "Oh, have you learned nothing?"

Annmarie Kelly:
Totally. The individual level, and I actually think this is where your gen Z brothers and sisters and children can help us, because if you spend time with your younger brother like I have children in my house, they only see individual levels. You know what I mean? They struggle actually to see systems.

Annmarie Kelly:
So one of the conversations my daughter and I had after your book had to do with black hair whereas she was obviously like, "Of course as a white girl I would never wear box braids." Like she didn't learn anything at that moment because she's like, "Well, of course, that ain't for me." Whereas I was like, "Well, but wait a minute. Does any one race corn of the market on a hairstyle? I've had crazy hair all my life, and if I could braid it down, I guess from a practical level I could see it.

Annmarie Kelly:
And she and I went back and forth and came to point where she's like, "Well, how would my classmates feel if I did that?" She only saw it in an individual level, and I again, I haven't put my hair in box braids, but she was helping me see that it's out of love for my black brothers and sisters who are telling me, "This f-ing hurts when you do that. You don't see it as racist, but it is. And when you do it, what you're telling me is you don't care how you make me feel, you don't care how you think of me, how you treat me."

Annmarie Kelly:
So I'm learning from my children on these individual levels, and I see hope there that I don't see in my gen x friends who were taught not to talk about race when they were growing up.

Fred Joseph:
It's funny. Someone asked me the other day if I felt like I dumbed anything down for young people to receive this book in an accessible way. I said, "No, if anything, I dumb things down when I'm talking to people who are my age and up," because I think that you hit the nail in the head. What's happening right now is that young people are so focused on their individuality that they respect other people's individuality. And they understand that from a one-on-one or group standpoint. It is now up to us to combine that understanding, that personality trait with our conversations historically about the systems, because even in that example of hair, one of the reasons why black women have to wear their hair, not have to but do their hair in certain ways stems from the system of slavery and having to hide grain in their braids while out and trying to feed their family on the plantation.

Fred Joseph:
So there is a system there and there's a history of said systems of oppression that comes into why that cultural norm or rather where that cultural norm stems from. For me, as an example, there's a ballroom culture in the LGBTQ+ community. But that ballroom culture comes out of being made to hide underground in their celebrations, hide underground in their parties, in their events because of homophobia, transphobia. And I'm not a part of that community, but if I was see people who are not part of that community trying to implement or reinvent the ballroom culture, they're like, "Well, why can't I? They don't have a monopoly on ballrooms." I'm like, "Yeah, but on an individual level you're getting it wrong because you're not respecting them as individuals, but then on a systemic level you don't even understand where this came from."

Annmarie Kelly:
And the difference between appropriating and appreciating. When you make me a playlist at the end of your book, which I have plaid religiously because I did my homework the second time, when you do that, as a listener, I am not appropriating that music. I am appreciating that music.

Annmarie Kelly:
I'm old enough to remember the first time I heard the phrase white privilege. I'm going to say I'm really old here, but I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio. We didn't talk about white privilege there. I went to college in the '90s in the sound. We didn't talk about white privilege there. Again, pretended race didn't exist. So I was a grown up girl in very tail end of 30 when I heard the phrase for the first time in an academic setting. I'd gone back to graduate school and I assumed they were talking about the kids out there on the lawn, eating their fro-yo and wearing their flip-flops.

Annmarie Kelly:
I was a working parent. I had ridden my bike from my parking space off campus because I could not afford to park on campus. So when they said white privilege, I just assumed they were talking about somebody else. I didn't grow up in a family that went to Disney World. Only vacation we took growing up was to a funeral in New Jersey which turns out that's not a vacation. That was just how my parents got us in the car. I didn't grow up thinking about privilege, and that has been some of the work of my adult life that it doesn't matter if I got up at 4:15 in the morning to work a job before class to pay my way through college and then worked a job after class. And so didn't do real well in class because of the jobs I was working.

Annmarie Kelly:
My skin comes with a privilege that I did not see. And that I feel like that's another difference between how my children see race and understand it, and how as an adult I have been late to that game. Do you see that disconnect between our generation and the one that follows us or have you ever noticed that?

Fred Joseph:
Oh yeah, but that's one thing I do find interesting because I think white privilege and I think privilege in general when looking at class, gender, so on and so forth, is still a sticking point that isn't sticking the way it needs too for people, even the generations coming up. Because to assess privilege you have to hold yourself accountable. And I don't think that as a culture and as complete society we teach accountability at a young enough age.

Fred Joseph:
I think that we are a society built upon the American dream, that anybody who works hard enough and does what they need to do can attain great things. But the American dream in all of its glory is a lie. It is something that should have an ellipsis. It's like dot dot dot, if you are blank, blank, blank, blank, blank, blank, blank. And that issue is still something that I'm seeing people having to work on a great deal, even in terms when I talk to classes at times when I'm doing these kind of conversations at schools about the books and other things, young white men especially just aren't necessarily getting it. They're like, "Well, my dad was an iron worker and my mom was a teacher, and I don't see that I have any privilege over you. You're the one speaking to our class, and I don't think I have any privilege over this young girl in my class because she has a month, international or women's history month, and I don't have a month. But why?" And my response to him is, "Well, you have everything."

Annmarie Kelly:
All the other months.

Fred Joseph:
Right, you have-

Annmarie Kelly:
And all the months, and all the days and all the years and all the calendars. You have all the things. It makes me think about your story towards the end of the book about the shoplifting story. And I'm not trying to call you out. I have also shoplifted. I shoplifted as an adult.

Annmarie Kelly:
Let's just get that out. I've never told anyone. It feels right. It feels right. Let's just go ahead. Folks, if you're listening, about 15 years ago I was at one of those self-checkouts, you know the stupid, you think I could do it faster, and you try to do the thing, and you get to produce, you're like, "Damn it. I don't know the code."

Annmarie Kelly:
Anyway, back when they were early, the thing didn't go off and lock and just alert the world to your presence. It would just not read. And I was trying to buy lemons for something I probably didn't cook, and I could not get the thing to go through. I have a baby with me. And I just put them in my cart and I decided to take them, to make up for the things I had left at the store and paid for the pop cans that you left underneath and you ...

Fred Joseph:
Yeah.

Annmarie Kelly:
How many times that I left those things at the store. They owed me. I mean, again, this is not that long ago. I remember, walking out the stop-and-shop with my ill gotten lemons. But if someone had come up to me and said, "Ma'am, you did not pay for those." Well first off, I don't even know that they would've done that, again, because this gets back to privilege. I am a white woman. They would've assumed it was a mistake. Oh, you probably thought that it would've been inherent. It wouldn't even been an accusation so much as, "Here's your change. I think you forgot to pay for those lemons. Don't worry about it. It's on the house. Take them all."

Annmarie Kelly:
So this idea that my experience with shoplifting was going to be different than your experience with shoplifting right off the bat. It doesn't matter what we took. It doesn't matter where we are. But because I look like me and you look like you, that story goes different. And so I'm wondering if you could share the story from the book for folks who haven't read it, and well, first, share the story, an honest question.

Fred Joseph:
When I was ... I think I was about 12 years old. I was definitely a preteen and there were girls in school who I wanted to impressed, not just because I wanted to date them or wanted them to like me. I honestly was getting completely ravaged by bulling. And me bringing things to these girls helped alleviate some of that as they started treating me better. So I decided to start taking things from the mall to give them, so essentially they would stop bulling me. That's what it all boils down to.

Fred Joseph:
And one of the times that I went to the mall, I was actually ... Well before I was actually [inaudible 00:29:26] by my ... I was caught by my grandmother who told me to stop, God bless her soul, and I wish I had listened to her. But I didn't. So I attempted to steal another time. And as I did, I was caught by security guards. And two security guards, these two white men, they didn't just stop me. It wasn't one of those things. And I've been in a mall and watched white young people making mistakes, maybe not just stealing, but running around, jumping in fountains, all sorts of things.

Fred Joseph:
And they didn't just stop me. They didn't just ask me no longer to do it. They accosted me. And I was this small kid at the time. And the way they treated me was quite frankly worse than even these mass shooters are treated often times that we see in society. They grabbed me, threw me around, so they were hurting me. They had called the police. So the police were on their way, and everyone just watched.

Fred Joseph:
I wasn't just fearing getting in trouble necessarily. I was fearing for my actual life, my physical being. Because I was familiar with the instances of Rodney King and Amadou Diallo and all these people beforehand. And I just knew as a kid, my job, I'm so young, I knew that I was going to probably be beaten to a pulp or killed because that's how they're treating me. Like your body no longer belongs to you. Your body is ours. Because I was taking berets and lipsticks and lip glosses and things like that.

Fred Joseph:
And one person in the store, just one intervened, it's this white guy, probably around the same age I am now, maybe a little younger, maybe in his early 30s, late 20s. He intervened because he saw just how unfair it was. And he used his privilege as being a white man in society to step in. And the way in which they acquiesced to his power of being just a white citizen was still amazing to me to this day because it didn't just force them to stop but it released me from the moment. His privilege was able to give me a second chance.

Fred Joseph:
And that's not to praise him as some white savior, but more so to speak to the type of power that whiteness holds in our society. And I use a distinction in the difference created by Mikki Kendall who wrote Hood Feminism, that's what an accomplice is versus an ally. An ally would've stood there and shook his head and said, "This is ... What's happening is wrong. Oh gosh, why are they doing this and that?"

Annmarie Kelly:
It's just not right. That's just not right.

Fred Joseph:
Yeah, yeah. "Gosh, someone should do something."

Annmarie Kelly:
That's such a shame.

Fred Joseph:
Yeah, shucks. Someone should do something about that. That's what allies do. Accomplices take inventory and stock of their resources, privilege, and access, and actively use them to combat oppression. And that's what he did in that moment.

Annmarie Kelly:
But I love that you defined this in the book because I have heard white folks bristle when they hear the word accomplices because it smacks of crime. It sounds like you're asking me to break the law? Oh my goodness. But in your definition in the book, you talk about an accomplice. And again, you do give Mickey Kindle credit. And I think you're incredibly generous to a fault in this book sometimes not taking credit for ideas that are also yours. But you talk about the definition, a person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another.

Annmarie Kelly:
Yes, the definition is from the commission of a crime, but it's that voluntarily and knowingly saying not just that that's wrong, but I'm going to insert myself into the wrongness right now because I inhabit this body, because we can fix that another time, but right now we're going to slide in and say no. It doesn't mean that you're Thelma and Louise and you've got a bag of money and your accomplice breaking the law, although sometimes you might be breaking the law. But it does mean that I felt asked as a white person reading your book to stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, my southeast Asian brothers and sisters, my Latinex brothers and sisters.

Annmarie Kelly:
I am being asked to cash in some of my privilege, to not stand there and say, "Oh my goodness, did you look at that?" But to say, "Knock it off. Stop." And you, not to be a savior, but to not be a jackass, to not be the kind of person who James Baldwin talks about. What does it mean? It means to be angry all the time. We should be angry. As a white person to look at the world that we live in, I should be angry too. And that shouldn't just stop there and then I go have an Orange Julius and a pretzel at the mall. I should be angry.

Annmarie Kelly:
And I just thought it was great that you shared that story. Nobody wants to share the shoplifting story, but I thought that it was important for readers to know that isn't enough to read the book. Talk to my kids, that's where you start.

Annmarie Kelly:
I know you know this, but I think sometimes it's worth saying out loud it is 100% not your job to explain any of this to any of us. It just isn't. I mean first off, thank you for bothering, thank you for taking your time, especially when it feels like it isn't working. And I'm sure it feels like that sometimes. Thank you for taking the time to do that, because I don't think everyone does.

Fred Joseph:
I deeply appreciate that.

Annmarie Kelly:
Here at Wild Precious Life I always do icebreakers at the end. I always found them terrifying at the beginning. I don't know you. How are you going to tell me? But at the end, I find like people answer them way more honestly. So I have just like a few short questions at the end for you. So just like little things, so short answers. Who was one of your best teachers?

Fred Joseph:
Oh, my best teacher was actually Mr. Steven Zawel. He was my drama teacher in elementary school. And he was the person, an older or middle aged white Jewish man who introduced me to a world of speaking from your diaphragm and Annie Get Your Gun and West Side Story and things of that nature.

Fred Joseph:
So I'm writing about the power of imagination and how that's not ... Imagination is not always something that men get. We take from the imaginations of men and tell me oftentimes like with women, but it's done in a very insidious way that oppresses women when we do it to men.

Annmarie Kelly:
Isn't that the truth. My father sang in a choir as a retiree for the first time in his life because when he was in high school, you played football, you played basketball, and you ran track. That's just what you did. But then my brothers went to a high school where they had it before. It was like 7:00 to 7:30 they had a men's chorus, hundreds of guys. And they would sing all. They'd be like every girl in the whole school would go to their concerts and just like lose their minds because these guys are singing and dancing. That leads me to my next one, what's another song, what's a song? I know all these songs. What's a go-to song for you?

Fred Joseph:
A go-to song ... You know what's one of my favorite songs of all time? This Is It by Kenny Loggins.

Annmarie Kelly:
What? That's not in the book either.

Fred Joseph:
No, no, it's not. This Is It, Kenny Loggins is one of the ... Like everybody has or everybody should have their song that's like I have my coffee, I'm getting up, I'm leaving the house. Like I'm going to do something good today. I'm going to accomplish a lot. That's my song. It's like it's so soulful ... Kenny Loggins, he's a soulful white dude, you know?

Annmarie Kelly:
He also did the soundtrack to like every movie between 1982. And every time I see a sound, I'm like that was, Footloose is him, Top Gun is him? It's funny. What's a movie you love? Or a documentary?

Fred Joseph:
My favorite movie of all time from like a cinematic, this is just untouchable space is Malcolm X, but that is one A. One B is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Annmarie Kelly:
Okay, what's a go-to book? When someone says, "Oh, get this book off your shelf, it's great, " what's one that you recommend?

Fred Joseph:
There's so many. You know my go-to book ... My go-to book right now and my go-to book probably will remain The Fire Next Time probably, James Baldwin. But you know what, but for a long time ... I love a good family drama. I'm a big This is Us fan because of that. And for a long time when I was younger it was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. And the reason why is no longer Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, when I learned who he was and kind of read his book with new eyes, or all his books, I realized just how problematic and how patriarchal that they were and I was like, "Oh."

Annmarie Kelly:
It is frustrating. I mean, it's good to grow, but I think we should have a word for. It's like the opposite of a bucket list. It's the stuff you've had to put in the bucket.

Fred Joseph:
It should be an attic list, right? The things you put in the attic, right?

Annmarie Kelly:
I like it. I like it. They're in the attic. So that'll be ... Who's in your attic? Who the people who are up there, they need to stay up there but you can chuck them out from time to time?

Fred Joseph:
Yeah, just every so often just-

Annmarie Kelly:
I love, yeah.

Fred Joseph:
Make sure that they're still collecting dust up there, whatever. You might dust it off and remember when.

Annmarie Kelly:
Which are you, dogs or cats?

Fred Joseph:
Dogs.

Annmarie Kelly:
Coffee or tea?

Fred Joseph:
Coffee.

Annmarie Kelly:
Mountains or beach?

Fred Joseph:
Mountains.

Annmarie Kelly:
Cake or pie?

Fred Joseph:
Pie.

Annmarie Kelly:
Early bird or night owl?

Fred Joseph:
Early bird.

Annmarie Kelly:
Are you a risk taker or are you the person who always knows where the band-aids are?

Fred Joseph:
Risk taker.

Annmarie Kelly:
And what's your favorite ice cream?

Fred Joseph:
Mint cookie by Ben & Jerry's. If they're listening, I will happily be an ambassador. Like I remember trying it for the first time a few years ago, and I said, "Why do any other ice creams exist?"

Annmarie Kelly:
If we were to take a snapshot of you just doing something you love, what would we see you doing?

Fred Joseph:
I would be in a small movie theater watching an indie film eating Twizzlers.

Annmarie Kelly:
Love it. Are you sucking up your drink with the Twizzler? Have you bitten off the top or the bottom to use it as a straw?

Fred Joseph:
I've never done that. Is that a thing?

Annmarie Kelly:
I don't know if it's a thing. But all I know as a kid and into my adult life, I bite the top and the bottom of the Twizzler and use it as a straw. And I'm just saying, you get back to me. We'll just circle back to that.

Fred Joseph:
This is something ...

Annmarie Kelly:
Because I find it works for champagne, it works for soda, just all the thing. You let me know.

Fred Joseph:
You might have changed my ... You might have changed my life. You are an accomplice.

Annmarie Kelly:
Oh yeah. I'm going to put that on a t-shirt or something. He said I was an accomplice. Now I'm back to fangirling. All right, just slowing myself down. Okay.

Annmarie Kelly:
I cannot stress this enough. Thank you, thank you Fred Joseph for writing this book, a book that helped me talk to my kids about race, a book that held up a mirror to myself, is asking me to not just think but to act about where my privilege ends and where other people's begins.

Annmarie Kelly:
Just like I think it's probably funny to end with icebreakers, I'm also thinking about the introduction to your book here at the end. You say to your little brother, "You deserve better, that I deserve better, that I demand better, which is why I have chosen to use every resource at my disposal to fight back. As long as I have a platform, I will use it to make our voices heard. I will write so long as it's the truth."

Annmarie Kelly:
Fred Joseph, thank you. Thank you for writing. Thank you for speaking truth. And what I learned from this book and what I hope that everybody who reads this book is that when you march, we march, when you stand, we stand, and we put ourselves between you and danger whenever possible. I am just grateful for you sharing this journey, taking your time, busy hours and moments with us.

Annmarie Kelly:
And folks, the book is The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person. You can find it at any independent bookstore near you. We'll put links in the website. Be on the lookout for future books from Fred. And to everyone listening, I am wishing you love and light wherever this day takes you. Until next time, be good to yourself, be good to one another and we'll see you again soon on this wild and precious journey.

Annmarie Kelly:
Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers, Gerardo Orlando and Michael DeAloia. Producer, Sarah Willgrube, and audio engineer, Eric Koltnow. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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