NOT GUILTY: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on Law, Justice, and Life

Jabari Asim, Editor
Jabari Asim, Editor . HarperCollins $25 (169p) ISBN 978-0-06-018538-1
Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-06-095997-5
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-06-203807-4
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If these 12 men are angry, they pointedly refuse to let anger be the sole motivational force of their reflections here, solicited in the wake of the New York police's mistaken shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black man. As Asim, a poet, critic, playwright, and senior editor of the Washington Post Book World, writes, "[i]t is as easy to see us as angry as it is to assume we are criminal-minded." Rather than a unanimous jury for the American legal system and its means of enforcement, these essays work as an instrument for taking apart the myths of "monolithic black experience and the singular black perspective" on civil society. Christopher Cooper is an attorney, associate professor of sociology at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, a former Marine and former Washington, D.C., police officer who sits on the board of the National Black Police Association; he contributes a carefully reasoned piece on police mediation in black communities. Bestselling novelist E. Lynn Harris (Not a Day Goes By, etc.) writes of "Quitting the Club"—"the please-don't-let-them-be-black club." Ricardo Cortez Cruz (Five Days of Bleeding) examines "My Flesh and Blood: Black Marks and Stigmata," the "massive brain trauma" of institutionalized racism: "At the mall or whatever, I see niggas walking around all the time wearing a mask, like it is nothing." Much more overtly violent and abhorrent images of encounters with police, crime and the justice system are sorted and kicked around throughout, and none of the writers here is under the illusion that his short, think piece–like reflections are going to change the country, let alone the world. But these frank attempts at personal reckoning with recent incarnations of liberty and justice are as good a start as any. (Nov. 6)

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