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Black, White and Gray All Over Reviewed
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Monday, May 2, 2022


Black, White and Gray All Over Reviewed
 
Compton, California, is a neighborhood next to the Watts section of Los Angeles. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was one of the most dangerous cities in the USA.
 
 
For thirty-two years, Frederick Douglass Reynolds, author of Black White And Gray All Over, was a black police officer and deputy sheriff in the area.

In this refreshingly blunt and heavy-hitting as-told-to autobiography of his life, Reynolds forcefully grapples with the realities of the environment he was submerged in working the streets of Compton as a police officer.

To exemplify, Reynolds quotes a tormented father who had just suffered the loss of his child to a gang drive-by shooting: "There's a war going on out here. All we're missing are the tanks and the warplanes, but you should hear the gunshots at night; I bet Vietnam wasn't this bad."

In the Forward to his memoir, Reynolds cautions his readers that it will be troublesome for some people to read, most likely White readers, and they may not want to continue past the first two chapters. And, as he states: "If those two chapters offend you, perhaps some introspection is required on your part. Simply put, to get to where I ended up in life, you must walk in my shoes."

Reynolds grew up in Detroit in a dysfunctional household in the 1960s. As a young lad, he was not exactly a model citizen. A member of the city's earliest gangs, the Errol Flynns, he was involved in recurrent criminal activities. Eventually, he enlisted in the military, becoming a Marine Corps infantryman. However, when he tried to re-enlist, his request was rejected because of his unsatisfactory disciplinary record.

While in the service, he had met his wife, Gilda, when he was based in Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. Gilda lived in Compton, and they eventually married and had kids.

We are informed that Reynolds' inspiration to become a cop emerged one day when working for the Greyhound bus line. He apprehended someone trying to steal a suitcase from a Mexican woman with three small kids. As he points out, it was an epiphany: "If helping people made me feel that good, then maybe being a police officer wasn't such a bad job after all; perhaps I had been on the wrong side all along."

The pathway to becoming a law enforcement officer was difficult. His initial application to the LAPD did not go as planned, and he was rejected.

In 1985, Reynolds gained employment with the City of Compton as a security officer. Ultimately, he was hired as a police recruit. He graduated in the upper half of his class in 1986 at the police academy, and was only one of five Blacks out of eighty-five to graduate. Thus began his career with the Compton PD until his retirement thirty-two years later.

The memoir provides readers with an invaluable prism through which we can see how and by whom our laws are enforced. The writing succinctly details Reynolds' many events that serve as a frank reminder of the hellish incidents he and his partners had to endure.

Reading the memoir feels like riding along with him in his squad car, initially, as a rookie fresh out of police college and, afterward, his time spent in different sections of the police force, witnessing some ghastly episodes.

His descriptions are stark, vicious, and tenacious in their depiction of violence on the streets of Compton. And you can completely comprehend the enormous emotional toll the stressful nature of the work had on him. In the early pages of the text, he acknowledges that his initial assumption was that recording his biography would be therapeutic. However, the more he penned, the more he understood how he was emotionally broken.

I have to applaud Reynolds on his story-telling acumen and command of the language. This is most likely the reflection of his being a voracious reader when he was a youngster, as he briefly mentions in the memoir.

The narrative would have been more rewarding if there had been professional content editing. Instead, it was unduly lengthy, with descriptions of far too many adventures and endless names of Reynold's buddies and gang members.

Nonetheless, the book's genuine achievement lies in Reynolds's frankness in crafting a memoir that profoundly affects the reading experience. His message, which comes across in the memoir, and as Reynolds mentions in our interview, cops don't live to engage in shootings or car and foot pursuits. Yet, almost all pay attention to the neighborhoods they police. They are not cold, heartless monsters searching for notches in their gun handles. It requires a particular type of person to potentially put their own lives in danger for someone they never met or perhaps wouldn't like if they knew each other. Every society since time immemorial has had its protectors, and this will never change. A just society is revealed in not merely how its protectors care for its inhabitants. It is how its inhabitants regard their protectors.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Frederick Douglass Reynolds

 

 

 

 

 

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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