The Blurb On The Back:
This is the story of the birth of a movement, from the award-winning journalist who reported at the heart of it. Based on over a year of on-the-ground reporting, it is an unprecedented portrait of the reality of police violence and endemic racism in America, and those trying to combat it.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
Wesley Lowery is a Washington Post journalist who was arrested and later released without charge while covering the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri following the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer. In this excellent book, Lowery examines the origins and development of the Black Lives Matters movement against the backdrop of the tragic shootings of unarmed black men, women and children in a clear, even-handed read that fully sets out the people who helped form the movement, the offshoot demonstrations allied to it and, above all, articulates the distress of the black community and its mistrust of police officers.
What’s great about this book is how even-handed Lowery is in his account. He’s not afraid to be critical of people on both sides and he’s honest and open as to mistakes that he made in his articles written at the time and criticism of the same. He’s also good at articulating the anxiety felt by many in the black community when dealing with police officers – I was shocked to learn of the disproportionate number of arrests that they suffer (many involving traffic violations) and that many black youngsters get ‘the talk’ from their parents as to how to act when a police officer stops them. I was also appalled by the levels of racism – both overt and covert that black people of all ages still experience in the United States.
Lowery dispels the myths around some of the victims (e.g. the account of Mike Brown’s behaviour prior to his death) but while he acknowledges that some victims weren’t angels, he equally points out that they shouldn’t need to be. I did want to know more about why the police union appeared to be so resistant to the use of body cams given that it equally offers protection to their members from vexatious or baseless accusations and I also wanted to know more about the solutions or changes that the Black Lives Matters activists want to see happen. The book also suffers from its timing – it was released before the US presidential election and I would be interested in a follow-up in light of the Trump presidency and how that’s shaping the movement and its objectives.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Black Lives Matters then I think this is a necessary read and great journalism. I’d definitely check out Lowery’s other work on the basis of this.
THEY CAN’T KILL US ALL was released in the United Kingdom on 26th January 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.