Michael Brown. Jordan Davis. Eric Garner. Sandra Blank. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. NOBODY. “This is a book about what it means to be nobody” (Hill).
This social-political-economic entanglement created by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill offers an undeniably eye-opening perspective look at the often overlooked groundwork for which racism in American has been built upon. Through this book, Dr. Hill seeks to challenge the psychological notion of “the other” as compared to the ‘normal’ or most overtly to ‘nobody.’ The seeming impetus for this work is the very notion that the victims explored in the book were not super-predators or even political activists, but rather more ordinary citizens whose were just as equally the victims of a broken system as they were of police brutality. Jaywalking, playing loud music, failing to signal a lane change, making eye contact with a police officer, selling loosies, fleeing a traffic citation, holding a realistic-looking toy gun or [simply] being a stranger re-categorized them in society as ‘other.’ But how does the ‘other’ happen? Dr. Hill offers what might be the most insightful sociology lesson marketable to the masses through this compellingly writing book.
Most Americans, either through word of mouth, social media, or news outlets, are grotesquely familiar with a number of incidents of fatal police brutality of usually unarmed black men and women since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013. Dr. Hill opens his book with an acceptance, of sorts, regarding these tragedies. No one is here to argue the series of events that make up the fatal moments in these lost lives. Nor is anyone here to disagree with the results of these interactions with police. The arguments posed throughout the text more assert questions of the historical fabric that develop identity and sociopolitical constructs that define the law. He strives to educate his readers on the how the state of Black America has led to these facts. Each chapter meticulously analyzes various politically and economically oppressive environments surrounding the loss of black life; how the Black body has come to be NOBODY.
Beginning with one of the most publicly known cases of fatal police brutality, Dr. Hill challenges his readers to understand that Michael Brown, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, was simply considered a nobody. He was not an activist; he was not a hero; he was not giving rallies or leading marches. Michael Brown was the same ‘NOBODY’ as every other Black victim of racist housing conditions looking to survive small town Ferguson, MO. Michael Brown was the same ‘NOBODY’ as the other 98% African American high school graduating class, which lost its accreditation due to consistently low test scores. Yet, it is here, in the social construction of inconsequentiality, that Dr. Hill demands the attention of his readers. We must confront the undeniable social constructs that have gripped individual lives and communities with over a century’s worth of segregated and oppressive laws and culture norms that should dare allow a man, identified by the color of his skin, to be effortlessly re-categorized as NOBODY.
Works like these, presented by Dr. Hill are especially important with the exponential rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement as he offers an easily accessible entry into a vastly complex history of racial inequality, racial profiling, and criminal justice discrimination. This book should be considered an educational launching point for any socially conscious individual seeking to equip themselves with the necessary tools to make sound, well-informed arguments regarding systematic racism in the United States. Additionally, this book is also well adjusted to serve as a reference tool for more well-informed or scholarly activists to not only re-ground themselves in the micro-picture but also to prepare themselves to share and educate their communities on complex topics in ways that are motivating, tangible and relatable.