Wesley Lowery, author of “They Can’t Kill Us All” and a national reporter at The Washington Post joined Boston Herald Radio this week to discuss his new book and the Black Lives Matter movement. Here are some excerpts:
Can you give us a rundown of what the book covers?
Essentially, this book aims to be a bit of a reporter’s notebook walking through from Ferguson, Mo., through the protest at the end of 2015 at the University of Missouri. So this goes from Ferguson to Cleveland to New York to Charleston to Baltimore, and then ends up back in Ferguson. And the goal was to do a few things: first to tell some of the stories of the families of the people who were killed by police in recent years and shootings that promoted massive protest. And the second thing was an attempt the tell the stories of many of the young people who have gone in the streets and some of the more prominent activists who have emerged.
What can you tell us about the core group of activists who are portrayed in this book?
I think of it as there are two different sets of people that become prominent activists throughout these demonstrations. One set of those folks are people who are already working in some kind of organizing capacity prior to Ferguson … another set of people who were not activists before this, who were just normal millennial 20-something and 30-somethings, but who were still moved by what was happening, they kind of thrust themselves … into activism. My book tried to focus primarily on that set of people.
How has that professional relationship evolved as you cover one tragedy after another and follow some of these activists along the way?
It’s been fascinating to watch how people go from just being angry and upset in the street to as they become pseudo public figures … I think it’s hard to understand someone if you can’t empathize with them, if you don’t see them as a full human … I try to breakdown what some of their political motivations are, what some of their life experiences are, as a means of telling their stories more fully.
How has this taken a toll on you?
Well I think that first of all, even just as a human, no matter what your politics or what you think of police and police shootings, watching people be killed on video, over and over and over again … it’s very difficult. But then on top of that, there’s the compounded complication, the compounded difficulty, watching the people on video looking like you, your brothers, your father — that can be hard. I think the other thing too is that this topic is extremely politically charged; there are people that think we shouldn’t be having these conversations, people who don’t think that its fair that police are coming under this scrutiny. And very often, they lash out at this journalist who is covering this story. So my inbox is not the most friendly place.
Where is our Black Lives Movement heading, especially if someone like Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General come January?
What we know about his ideology, so far, and what his stated goals are, it would be a 180 as it relates to policing issues and most civil rights issues, as it compares to the Obama administration.
What do you want readers to take away from this book, especially white readers who are seeking out some kind of understanding?
I think its important to see them as people, to see them as humans, to understand their lived experiences, their triumphs and their tragedies. And that’s what I attempt to do in this book, to try and take someone, or anyone, who might have become a national figure in these cases, and peel back the layers so you can see their motivations and see why this is so important to them … We don’t always have to agree with each others’ politics, but we have to recognize each others’ humanity and recognize that we are not all just sinister actors out here doing things because we want to disrupt everything, but rather people have real reasons and real rationales for why they have been thrust into this activism.