This is a hard book to classify. It is, as its title asserts, about a new era in America’s racial justice movement, inspired by the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. To be more specific, the thesis of the book is that the movement was not only inspired by the killing of Mike Brown, but the aftermath – the 4 1/2 hours that his body remained on the street, the protests, and the police response to them.
But it also a story of Lowery, an accidental star for having been arrested for apparently not dispersing quickly enough from a McDonald’s near the site of Brown’s death. It becomes his story in that he, like others (including me, to be honest), moved from considering the death of Brown to be a specific incident (as Charles Krauthammer, among others, would have us believe) to something that was and is symbolic of a larger, structural, systemic and deliberate destruction of the bodies of people of color.
Lowery does not hold himself above or outside us all. He is critical of the media’s role, the kinds of questions asked, the short-term attention span, the inclination for hyperbole, the partisanship masquerading as neutrality. What emerges here is a genuine respect for the ordinary people, never elected, never ‘perfectly’ qualified, who meet in church basements and in pancake houses to plan and execute the small, local, and essential steps necessary for keeping the country’s attention – especially in these tense times – that black lives matter.