Immediate note: I am a white woman, which means of course that I have a ton of privileged and am lacking any real-world experience with racism directed at me or people who look like me. There’s sections of this book I’m just not going to address in this review, because I don’t feel that I’m qualified to. While this book is mostly about the external crisis black men face in a police state interested in oppressing and murdering them, it also addresses issues of internal crisis, and that’s what I feel I have no business commenting on because I can’t judge it’s merit or lack thereof.
Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say that I really appreciated how directly and honestly this book addressed the fact that law enforcement in America is set up to and functions as a way to abuse, imprison, and murder people of color, especially black men. Butler does not tiptoe around this and he doesn’t put it in terms white people would find more easily digestible. In that way it reminded me of Michelle Alexander’s brilliant must-read The New Jim Crow. This isn’t Racism 101 level stuff, though it really should be.
Butler also frequently points out that while the book focuses primarily on black men, black women face a double-bind of racism and sexism, and violence from both things. I would have loved even more in-depth discussion of that, but I understand that every book can’t focus on every thing, of course. He also includes a large section of tips for what to do if you do encounter the police, up to and including being charged with and found guilty of a crime. This draws from both his experience as a prosecutor and as a man arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.