Book Review: Black, White, and Gray All Over
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
An inside look at the history of the Compton police department through the eyes of one of its best Black officers
Black, White, and Gray All Over is a combination of a deeply personal life account and a collective story of the police department and the incidents they encountered. Frederick Reynolds lays both himself and his department bare, giving us all of the facts and the humanity behind them. It’s a read that will make your jaw drop.
Frederick Reynolds didn’t grow up with a dream of being a police officer in one of the most dangerous cities in America. On the contrary, his childhood was filled with mischief; he and his buddies roamed the streets of Detroit, committing crimes, associating with gangs, and leaving a trail of destruction in their path.
It was only after years of suffering, homelessness, broken relationships, and lots of life lived that he was able to find a home in the Compton police department. And while that was in some ways an oasis from his previous life, his career was nowhere close to a walk in the park.
Being a Compton police officer meant seeing friends getting killed and heinous acts against humanity. He would soon have new trauma to deal with. All of this combined with the complexities of being a Black man in the force are what make this story unique.
Black, White, and Gray All Over is an uncommon reading experience, like taking a years-long ride-along through history and some of Compton’s toughest crimes. Reynolds gives readers multiple first-hand accounts of situations you’ve likely only read about in the news.
This includes inside information on some of the budget spending indifferences in Los Angeles that continue to leave Compton fending for themselves, background on who he believes really murdered Tupac Shakur (and the proof to go with it), the Los Angeles riots after the beating of Rodney King, a history of some of the toughest gangs in Los Angeles, and so much more.
These big events, mixed with the everyday shocking crimes that happen in his city, are the core of this book, making it a great choice for history buffs and true crime lovers. The book may be a little longer than necessary though, with some parts feeling repetitive.
Sprinkled in between these intense stories is the personal story of Frederick Reynolds, a Black man with a rich history and a lot of living and learning to do. Starting with his early childhood, we’re able to follow his journey and all of the highs and lows that come with it. These sections are a highlight, as they shape the Black experience woven into the experience of being a police officer. For this story, you can’t have one without the other. His struggles outside of his career are sometimes just as intense.
His issues with his own father and how that shaped the father he would become are among the most compelling aspects of this autobiography. Despite knowing the effects that an absent father can bring on, (while Reynolds’ own father was present but absent-minded due to an alcohol addiction), he becomes an absent father himself, not knowing how to be present while balancing a lifetime’s worth of trauma that just keeps piling on. His teenage angst and unruliness are then mirrored in his own son. But through his own mishaps, he’s able to build himself back up brick by brick to become something better, and we as readers get to witness each brick being built and the pain that comes with it.
Reynolds’ story will be one many people are interested in picking up. A Black man’s experience working in an area filled with crime and by the side of many white officers is sure to pique readers’ curiosity. But fair warning, his opinions on race and equality are uniquely his own. With a strong conviction that there are good and bad in all races, Reynolds’ life journey isn’t one that takes anyone’s side (except for maybe his own) too strongly. Still, when I sit back and reflect on my reading experience, I feel that it gave me a lot of new information, unique views, and honest storytelling.
Publisher: MindStir Media
Genre: Nonfiction / Policing / Black & African American
Print Length: 396 pages
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