Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Review: They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

Title: They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement
Author: Wesley Lowery
Pages: 256 pages
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Nonfiction; African American; Race; Black Lives Matter
My Rating: 3/5

A deeply reported book that brings alive the quest for justice in the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray, offering both unparalleled insight into the reality of police violence in America and an intimate, moving portrait of those working to end it

Conducting hundreds of interviews during the course of over one year reporting on the ground, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery traveled from Ferguson, Missouri, to Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland; and then back to Ferguson to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.

In an effort to grasp the magnitude of the repose to Michael Brown's death and understand the scale of the problem police violence represents, Lowery speaks to Brown's family and the families of other victims other victims' families as well as local activists. By posing the question, "What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?" Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.

Studded with moments of joy, and tragedy, They Can't Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. As Lowery brings vividly to life, the protests against police killings are also about the black community's long history on the receiving end of perceived and actual acts of injustice and discrimination. They Can't Kill Us All grapples with a persistent if also largely unexamined aspect of the otherwise transformative presidency of Barack Obama: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to those Americans most in need of both. 

They Can't Kill Us All is a galvanizing book that offers more than just behind-the-scenes coverage of the story of citizen resistance to police brutality. It will also explain where the movement came from, where it is headed and where it still has to go.

They Can't Kill Us All is an excellent primer to the Black Lives Matter movement and the lives that were taken by law enforcement.

Wesley Lowery, reporter from the Washington Post, was on the front lines during the immediate aftermath of the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, 12 y/o Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, etc etc. This is a compilation of his firsthand research of the murders, police brutality, and interviews with the victim's families and young activists who continue to fuel the Black Lives Matter movement. Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, the arrest of Martese Johnson, Philandro Castile (and on and on) are all discussed. I don't think one of these cases has produced the retribution that we want to see. We hear about the Confederate flag finally being challenged by Bree Newsome. We hear about extremists gunning down police officers in the name of Black Lives Matter. We hear about Dylann Roof executing 9 church-goers in Charleston. This is very complex. There will be textbooks written about this in the future and Lowery's work will be included. The Black Lives Matter movement will forever have a place in the black narrative of America.

This book was very disjointed and jumped chronologically around all over the place without warning or transition. As if Lowery wanted to squeeze every bit of his field notes in. Strong editing would have done wonders. I watched Lowery on The Daily Show discuss his goal of showcasing the young activists involved in Black Lives Matter in hopes of making them more understandable. Accomplished, but disorganized. I got a sense that Lowery had contempt for one of the activists which was sort of odd to read. I read this as very passive aggressive on Lowery's part. Childish, even.

Regardless, this is an important book from a firsthand witness. This will be used as reference for years to come.

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