Your Black Friend
Comic zine, Ben Passmore, 11 pgs., silversprocket.net, $5 (US)
I’ll just say this straight-up: Your Black Friend is required reading. Ben Passmore is doing powerful work here. From beginning to end, this is a razor-sharp personalized analysis of friendship and racism, presented in top-notch full colour on matte paper in Ben’s distinctive comic style. Ben’s comic should stand tall among the growing body of crucial exhortations on race in the United States today. It speaks directly to you (a presumably non-black reader) through the voice of “your black friend.” The central thrust is that there are things your black friend would like to tell you, but he doesn’t know how – things that are going to make you uncomfortable, things that will force you to ask yourself some tough questions. Starting out with overheard racism in a café, the comic unpacks the alienation, the aggression and the sheer unexamined bigotry lurking under white American conversation, behavior and ways of being toward black people.
Ben covers a remarkable amount of ground in just 11 pages. Nearly every panel forces a pause and reflection. Each reveals another aspect of alienation your black friend feels: the need to constantly monitor his own speech and behavior, feeling like your white friends are trying to “out black” him, having to be your own personal reference source on black people, and being expected to teach you how to dance. Ben shows how even in the sanctuary of friendship, the infection of racism runs deep.
There’s so much your black friend wishes he could make you understand, but so much obstinacy in the path of understanding. Your Black Friend inspires essential self-examination and is a killer comic to boot. (Joshua Barton)