They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement- Wesley Lowery
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.
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My Review - 5 Stars
Like many, I first remember encountering Washington Post journalist Wesley Lowery in the days after Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. I was glued to Twitter, hungry for information to counter the helplessness and anger I felt. He was one of the first journalists on the ground and his observations and insights were immeasurable. And that was before he and fellow journalist Ryan Reilly were arrested by the Ferguson police in an act of intimidation.
When I found out Lowery had written a book, I knew I wanted to read it but I wasn't sure what the experience would be like. After all, this is not a light topic. This book blew me away. I could not put it down. It's incredibly engaging and riveting. We learn more about Lowery's background, as well as how his journalism career began. We see the string of events that sent him to Ferguson and how coverage there- combined with Twitter- changed everything. We see how his coverage of Mike Brown then led to covering the many other senseless killings since by those sworn to protect us. Lowery intersperses this by spotlighting the activists he met along the way, many of whom I was familiar with but did not know much about beyond their tweets. He also looks at the history that formed this narrative of police violence (for a more in-depth look, I recommend The New Jim Crow.)
All this is compelling enough but I particularly appreciated Lowery's perspective as a journalist. Why he covered things the way he did. The mistakes he made. (He addresses a specific tweet in which his bias showed. I hadn't really thought about the way journalists use Twitter before.) How covering the deaths of People of Color affected him as a POC, especially when so few officers are held accountable even in the face of video proof.
This is an important book. It's one of the books I wish everyone would read. Especially those who don't understand the events in Ferguson, the Black Lives Matter movement, or how it's possible to advocate for justice within the police system while valuing the work the police do. For those who do understand all of those things, this will serve as a reminder of the events of the past few years and why it's important to continue fighting for justice for Trayvon, Mike, Eric, Sandra, and too many more names who have been added to the list.
Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.