Review of “Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man's Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement” by Frederick Douglas Reynolds
Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
This is by far the most enjoyable book we've read so far this season!
We've gone from covering a Holocaust memoir, a book about a mother desperately fighting to raise a daughter with Trisomy 18, and multiple fantasy novels to this book about issues that have never been more relevant and heated: police brutality and racism.
In the wake of George Floyd's tragic death and a summer full of Black Lives Matter protests and riots, the issues of police brutality and systemic racism have reared their ugly heads yet again. Author Frederick Douglas Reynolds is sure to remind us that not only is this not the first time, but it will likely not be the last time something like this happens as these issues are far more complex and nuanced than simply defunding or disbanding police. This is the meaning behind the ending of the title “Gray All Over.”
What we absolutely love about this book, aside from the occasional humor and fun or interesting stories, is just how fair and balanced it is. The author is not preaching to the choir, nor is he grand standing or virtue signaling which seems to be the rave these days. No, Reynolds is telling us the inconvenient truths: he is telling us how it is both from the perspective of a Black man in America and a police officer of over a decade. He is brutally honest about it too, including discussing his own mistakes and vices as well as those of other police officers he has known. Reynolds comes right out and warns people with strong political or social views that they might be turned away and may want to stop reaching after two chapters. We're not quite sure if that's the case at all as Reynolds rarely if ever says anything attacking one ideology or another. Perhaps a better way to translate his warning is: if the truth hurts you too much, don't read this; or maybe consider why the truth hurts you so much. If you think racism doesn't exist and we just need to get over it, you need to spend a day in Compton. If you think dealing with violent criminals as a police officer without weapons of your own is practical, then you need to spend a night on patrol in Compton.
That's right: Compton. Author Reynolds was once Officer Reynolds, an officer and later detective in Compton, one of the most infamous gang-ridden cities in America. To say that Officer Reynolds has seen it all would be an understatement, and that's where most of the intrigue of this book lies. Reynolds is a man of so much experience. He has been the “bad guy” and he has been the “good guy.” He has allowed his relationship with his wife and family to disintegrate during his work as an officer. He has woken up next to people he doesn't even remember meeting including a dwarf. He has busted the baddest gangsters. He has lost colleagues and classmates to gunfire, suicide, and more. He has seen humanity at its most depraved, but he has also experienced profound compassion such as being gotten off the hook twice by the same man. He has seen good people, bad people, not-so-bad people, men, women, children, Blacks, and Whites die in Compton.
He was on the force in 1991 on the day that the Rodney King incident occurred, and after the acquittal of the five officers in 1992, he immediately recognized the danger and the storm that was about to overtake LA and the country. He warned his dispatch that they needed all hands on deck for the coming riots, and he was even confronted and called an “Uncle Tom” by one of the rioters for being a Black police officer. He frequently reminds us that ignorance more than anything fuels racism and violence.
He frequently reminds us of just how quick things happen and how your life can change in a day or in an instant. You can be celebrating a great day with your family one moment, then be picking up bloody bodies the next. He tells us that nothing is more frightening than confronting a driver because you never know if they have a weapon, bodies or kidnapped people in the trunk, or if they intend to run you over.
He is quick to remind us not to be hasty to judge others until we know the facts as we don't know what it must've been like to be in their shoes. Guns fire faster than you think. Anxiety sets in. Fear too. Drugs and days without sleep or spent handling conflicts take their toll on your psyche. What's incredibly tragic about what Reynolds tells us is that while war veterans are treated as heroes and receive a lot of attention for PTSD, police officers often do not. Police officers are there in the middle of criminals and their victims—the criminals with their constitutional rights to remain silence, bear arms, and not be unlawfully searched, and the victims with their right to life and property. Police officers don't have that kind of protection, and their mental health is not treated the same as people like veterans or domestic abuse victims. They are expected to be tough. They are expected to just deal with it day after day after day. And that's what we experience along with Reynolds in this book: the day to day experiences of a Black man and a Black police officer. You'd think that this kind of chronicling would be boring, but it most certainly isn't. There are twists and surprises, shocks and awes around every corner.
And this book isn't without its humor. We're not even sure if it's intentional, but Reynolds definitely knows how to make us laugh. There are over 40 incidences of “m*********r” being uttered, and this almost becomes the Samuel L. Jackson Show in that regard. What's also funny is the slang that the officers come up with to describe the perpetrators (“d*******s”) and each other. There's also a surprising amount of flatulence and horseplay among the police officers. It's hilarious to read about. What's just organically funny is the stupid people doing stupid people things. The abysmally low IQs and overall common sense among some of the people Reynolds encounters is roll-on-floor-laughing worthy.
And did we mention that Reynolds himself is not an angel? He has his moments of being a d******d himself, but we're relieved when others call him out on it. At the same time, we don't want anything really bad to happen to him. We feel for him, and we know why he does most of what he does.
Oh, and also he was a bodyguard for Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, but anyway...
This book is another beautiful disaster. It's nothing like the preachy textbook we were expecting to read from the title, the foreward, or the book description. This book is actually very exciting and interesting to read!
Get it on Amazon!