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12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today

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"Beautifully written, painfully honest" first-person accounts of racial profiling, as experienced by twelve black men from all over America (Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow). In an era of contentious debate about controversial police practices and, more broadly, the significance of implications of race throughout American life, 12 Angry Men is an urgent, mo "Beautifully written, painfully honest" first-person accounts of racial profiling, as experienced by twelve black men from all over America (Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow). In an era of contentious debate about controversial police practices and, more broadly, the significance of implications of race throughout American life, 12 Angry Men is an urgent, moving, and timely book that exposes "a serious impediment to the collective American Dream of a colorblind society" (Pittsburgh Urban Media). In this "extraordinarily compelling" book, a dozen eloquent authors tell their own personal stories of being racially profiled. From a Harvard law school student tackled by a security guard on the streets of Manhattan, a federal prosecutor detained while walking in his own neighborhood in Washington, DC, and a high school student in Colorado arrested for "loitering" in the subway station as he waits for the train home, to a bike rider in Austin, Texas, a professor at a Big Ten university in Iowa, and the head of the ACLU's racial profiling initiative (who was pursued by national guardsmen after arriving on the red-eye in Boston's Logan airport), here are true stories of law-abiding Americans who also happen to be black men (Publishers Weekly).


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"Beautifully written, painfully honest" first-person accounts of racial profiling, as experienced by twelve black men from all over America (Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow). In an era of contentious debate about controversial police practices and, more broadly, the significance of implications of race throughout American life, 12 Angry Men is an urgent, mo "Beautifully written, painfully honest" first-person accounts of racial profiling, as experienced by twelve black men from all over America (Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow). In an era of contentious debate about controversial police practices and, more broadly, the significance of implications of race throughout American life, 12 Angry Men is an urgent, moving, and timely book that exposes "a serious impediment to the collective American Dream of a colorblind society" (Pittsburgh Urban Media). In this "extraordinarily compelling" book, a dozen eloquent authors tell their own personal stories of being racially profiled. From a Harvard law school student tackled by a security guard on the streets of Manhattan, a federal prosecutor detained while walking in his own neighborhood in Washington, DC, and a high school student in Colorado arrested for "loitering" in the subway station as he waits for the train home, to a bike rider in Austin, Texas, a professor at a Big Ten university in Iowa, and the head of the ACLU's racial profiling initiative (who was pursued by national guardsmen after arriving on the red-eye in Boston's Logan airport), here are true stories of law-abiding Americans who also happen to be black men (Publishers Weekly).

30 review for 12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today

  1. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    While I've certainly been aware of the practice of racial profiling and read about the disproportionate numbers of black men who have been abused and killed by US police, this was the first time I'd read first-person stories of what it's like to be the target of racial profiling. Yes, there is repetition, but I agree with one of the other reviewers here that that's part of the point. These incidents are a repetitive fact of life for all too many black male citizens -- and it should not be. I am While I've certainly been aware of the practice of racial profiling and read about the disproportionate numbers of black men who have been abused and killed by US police, this was the first time I'd read first-person stories of what it's like to be the target of racial profiling. Yes, there is repetition, but I agree with one of the other reviewers here that that's part of the point. These incidents are a repetitive fact of life for all too many black male citizens -- and it should not be. I am glad that I read this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who claims that we live in a "post-racial" country.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    As a young black man, I'd been racially profiled more times than I could count. And even as a middle-aged man, I've been tagged more than once. This book, through personal testimony, perfectly encapsulates the anger, frustration, and fear that I'd felt on those occasions. It's a bit infuriating, but definitely well worth the read. As a young black man, I'd been racially profiled more times than I could count. And even as a middle-aged man, I've been tagged more than once. This book, through personal testimony, perfectly encapsulates the anger, frustration, and fear that I'd felt on those occasions. It's a bit infuriating, but definitely well worth the read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book should be required reading for every white person in America.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cornelia

    Twelve black men with varied backgrounds and lives recount very similar experiences of being racially profiled, sometimes on numerous occasions. This book was illuminating, heart-breaking and powerful. The voices behind these essays are diverse and distinct. These men range in age, career, education level and SES. The backdrops, too, vary from upscale neighborhoods to public housing to airports, from major metropolises to suburbs, from coast to coast to the South to our nation's capital. Still t Twelve black men with varied backgrounds and lives recount very similar experiences of being racially profiled, sometimes on numerous occasions. This book was illuminating, heart-breaking and powerful. The voices behind these essays are diverse and distinct. These men range in age, career, education level and SES. The backdrops, too, vary from upscale neighborhoods to public housing to airports, from major metropolises to suburbs, from coast to coast to the South to our nation's capital. Still there are haunting threads that run through all of these accounts: repeated unwarranted harassment; the rote performance of "I don't want trouble" submission; abuse of power by law enforcement; the fear that one misinterpreted move could land the narrator in jail or a body bag; the dehumanization, defeat and resignation the practice of racial profiling engenders in its victims. This is one of those rare books that I would recommend to just about anyone living in America. It's a very good (though troubling) read, an important book. The frank stories of these 12 men echo injustices perpetrated against millions of Americans based solely on skin color, and that's something we all need to hear.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Audra

    The more things change the more they remain the same. It is infuriating that police criminality and brutality are still as rampant today as they were decades ago. What is even more disheartening is that certain members of society believe: 1) not only that "if you just comply" everything will be fine and 2) that racial profiling doesn't exist. If you are among the sect of society that I just mentioned, read this book. If you were insulted by what I just said, read this book because you are most li The more things change the more they remain the same. It is infuriating that police criminality and brutality are still as rampant today as they were decades ago. What is even more disheartening is that certain members of society believe: 1) not only that "if you just comply" everything will be fine and 2) that racial profiling doesn't exist. If you are among the sect of society that I just mentioned, read this book. If you were insulted by what I just said, read this book because you are most likely part of the problem. I think this book should be required reading for anyone entering the police academy. A raw, open and honest look at what it means to be a Black man in America.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    The essays are all articulate and interesting, and the editor makes and effort to have a lot of socioeconomic range in the writers. My husband actually picked it up and read it after I was done, which is a huge compliment. The material wasn't particularly illuminating though, if you read magazines that include such essays regularly. The essays are all articulate and interesting, and the editor makes and effort to have a lot of socioeconomic range in the writers. My husband actually picked it up and read it after I was done, which is a huge compliment. The material wasn't particularly illuminating though, if you read magazines that include such essays regularly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tod Hilton

    A sobering topic that every person needs to be aware of. This collection of essays puts the reader in the place of each author, an exercise in empathy every person needs to experience, especially white people in the U.S., like myself. It's not that we experience the world through different perspectives, it's as though they're completely different worlds. The stories are both heart wrenching and maddening. The sense of helplessness inflicted is bad enough to warrant action; the violence and hatred A sobering topic that every person needs to be aware of. This collection of essays puts the reader in the place of each author, an exercise in empathy every person needs to experience, especially white people in the U.S., like myself. It's not that we experience the world through different perspectives, it's as though they're completely different worlds. The stories are both heart wrenching and maddening. The sense of helplessness inflicted is bad enough to warrant action; the violence and hatred experienced by these men is unconscionable. I appreciate the Introduction providing statistical data and facts about racial profiling. Doing so put the essays into context, helping me to empathize even more with the anecdotal stories. While the U.S. has come a long way in 150 years, there's still a long road ahead.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Each of these essays were compelling accounts. A few of them were even downright poetic. This is a book everyone, and I mostly mean people who don't believe racial profiling exists, or that police brutality exists, needs to read. This book really could change a person's perspective. Yes, there are many good police police departments in this country, but there are also corrupt police and corrupt police departments in this country, and if people could open their minds to that concept, maybe we rea Each of these essays were compelling accounts. A few of them were even downright poetic. This is a book everyone, and I mostly mean people who don't believe racial profiling exists, or that police brutality exists, needs to read. This book really could change a person's perspective. Yes, there are many good police police departments in this country, but there are also corrupt police and corrupt police departments in this country, and if people could open their minds to that concept, maybe we really could have a more just society. And I say this as a fiscal conservative who realizes that conservative ideals can never be achieved as long as there are people in this country who are born into a world with the deck stacked against them. I believe in autonomy and freedom, but there can't be true freedom until everyone enjoys the same Bill of Rights.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This collection of essays is an amazing look into the life of the average, not so average black man in the United States of America. It is interesting how a slight peak into interactions with the police and the world at large can help shift your perspective. How would you react to being pulled over so often that you allow yourself extra time to arrive on time to function factoring in the evitable flashing lights that accompany your driving? How would you react to being stopped and frisked almost This collection of essays is an amazing look into the life of the average, not so average black man in the United States of America. It is interesting how a slight peak into interactions with the police and the world at large can help shift your perspective. How would you react to being pulled over so often that you allow yourself extra time to arrive on time to function factoring in the evitable flashing lights that accompany your driving? How would you react to being stopped and frisked almost daily and sometimes more than one time on the same day? How would you react if someone accused you of breaking into your own home when you were walking down your street to said home? This collection is well put together and makes my heart sad that this is the state of the world we still find ourselves surrounded by.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ariadna73

    This book presents 12 stories of verbal and physical abuse received by 12 black men in America. Their only sin: being black. All these are honorable; respected and innocent men that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: walking on the streets; trying to enter their home; driving their car; making a phone call in an airport. But wait... the wrong place? Not if they were not black. They are just the wrong color; and that is so unfair that makes me sick. I literally got a headache re This book presents 12 stories of verbal and physical abuse received by 12 black men in America. Their only sin: being black. All these are honorable; respected and innocent men that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: walking on the streets; trying to enter their home; driving their car; making a phone call in an airport. But wait... the wrong place? Not if they were not black. They are just the wrong color; and that is so unfair that makes me sick. I literally got a headache reading these stories of impotence and abuse. Everyone should read this book just to be for a short time on the shoes of a person that is accused; judged; found guilty and put in jail only for being of a different skin color.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    The fact that this is a very quick read (maybe an hour) belies the fact that it leaves you stunned and nearly speechless. I'm not sure what to say -- I'm not naive, but this made me ill. I think anyone who has led a sheltered life, who believes people should just 'get a job,' or 'show some initiative,' should read this book. There's more to say. I'm having trouble finding the words. The fact that this is a very quick read (maybe an hour) belies the fact that it leaves you stunned and nearly speechless. I'm not sure what to say -- I'm not naive, but this made me ill. I think anyone who has led a sheltered life, who believes people should just 'get a job,' or 'show some initiative,' should read this book. There's more to say. I'm having trouble finding the words.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    The nice thing about a book of essays is that if you don't like one, you're on to the next one pretty quickly. The book was fine. Racial profiling is a very interesting topic, particularly when told by the victims of the profiling. With that said, not all of the essays were that great. The nice thing about a book of essays is that if you don't like one, you're on to the next one pretty quickly. The book was fine. Racial profiling is a very interesting topic, particularly when told by the victims of the profiling. With that said, not all of the essays were that great.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Warren Benton

    This book gave me a perspective that i do not currently hold. Some of the stories are heart wrenching and point out how the police do abuse their power in some situations. I must say that reading this book sort of made me an angry man also

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tamika

    It took just over a day for me to read this book. It was a quick, and excellent read. I recommend it to anyone who needs to be reminded of the racial injustices still being carried out today.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Definitely eye opening, and sad. Being a white woman, I have no idea what it's like to be black in America. This book of short stories helped that. Definitely eye opening, and sad. Being a white woman, I have no idea what it's like to be black in America. This book of short stories helped that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Natalya

    that book was awesome because that book inspired me to fight for justice so now when i grow up i want to be a lawyer.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tony Laplume

    I really have a problem as to how I should think of this one. On the one hand, clearly racial profiling is real and a social evil that needs to end. On the other, a book like this is not going to make it end. This book was released several years into the Obama administration but several years before the mass protests of police shootings the media has covered extensively, so that you don't need to be a part of the given community to have heard of it. I describe the latter as such because even in Tw I really have a problem as to how I should think of this one. On the one hand, clearly racial profiling is real and a social evil that needs to end. On the other, a book like this is not going to make it end. This book was released several years into the Obama administration but several years before the mass protests of police shootings the media has covered extensively, so that you don't need to be a part of the given community to have heard of it. I describe the latter as such because even in Twelve Angry Men several essays reference shootings from before this period I had honestly not heard of. And, obviously, released before Charlottesville, before Trump. My biggest problem is that after reading The Sellout, I have to wonder what Paul Beatty would say to the contributors. I don't want to suggest that their experiences weren't real, but that perhaps their response, and their essays, are influenced by a culture that seems interested only in making things worse, even when many of them are described as actively working against the police practices that result in racial profiling and humiliation and a general lack of trust. I'm white. My closest experience with racial profiling is awareness of religious intolerance. Throughout American history and including the present, in which pedophiles have been used to discredit all of us, Catholics have been subject to constant irrational fears (that pope you see in the news today would yesterday, give or take half a century, have been accused of directing his flock against good patriotic loyalty) and held, generally, as inferior to Protestants. Then again, today if you're a Christian at all, you're in defensive mode and then are questioned as to why you're in defensive mode (Starbucks can design its holiday cups anyway it wants, okay?). So I get it. To a certain extent. I'm white. I lived in Colorado Springs for the better part of a decade. Following 9/11, the military bases in town experienced a massive swelling as two wars began prosecution. This made the area cheap to live in. Well, half of it, anyway. There was the good and respectable side of town, and then there was the side I lived on, the cheap one. I was always getting reminded of this fact, but because I'm white I never really experienced what that was supposed to mean. One night I experienced an incident between a black man and some Hispanics. Thankfully nothing too bad happened, but I left the scene, on foot, rattled. I pulled on a hood, paranoid that any stragglers might identify me as having been there, but it was the cops, when they arrived, who intercepted me. I pulled back my hood. I have to assume, to this day, that because I'm white nothing came of that. I went home. End of story, right? The essays in this book recount incidents where this is not what happened. No one got hurt, but none of these guys got to just walk away so easily. But each of them describe a kind of institutionalized fury, even from those who weren't born in this country. I mention Paul Beatty because in The Sellout he describes the kind of atmosphere where I imagine this attitude festers, where people gather and trade stories of injustice, and all it does is make them angrier. Hence the title, right? I was always taught to approach police with courtesy. I'm white, so I guess I get that right, because I generally don't have to fear about a situation escalating for no good reason. But so many of these essays include without apology, as if it becomes the right thing to do, these situations escalating because the writers have decided courtesy was something they didn't have to show, that they've earned the right to behave in a passive aggressive manner. I'm merely suggesting that there ought to be a better way. There are those, a seeming majority, who will denounce anyone if they don't merely state the injustice and declare that nothing can improve unless you complain loudly. And yet, today, we're reaching a fever pitch, and I don't see that as productive. This is a whole book of victims seeing themselves as victims instead of as humans. Is that really the point? People treat people poorly in general. This is a book about cops treating people poorly, black people, but it's systemic, endemic, to the species. If the subject is racial profiling by cops, you're going to find a thousand examples, easily. I'm just saying, the introduction is good. It offers a lot of perspective. There's plenty of perspective in the essays, too, but they're uniformly convinced that they didn't exasperate the specific situations they relate, which demonstrably isn't true far too frequently as you read. I say this and I sound like I'm making excuses, that I'm denying that racial profiling happens...What I'd like to say, and even this sounds shitty, is that I wish the essays had been easier to take at face value. I know the problem is real, but I read something like this, something that is trying to make the problem visible, and I see that it's only making things worse. And that's just as terrible. In far too many ways...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Must read for any one living in America. The introduction with all the facts and stats that establish a pattern may seem redundant if you are woke, but power through that part. The testimonials are sure to be enlightening even if you have heard many other stories like them, and it is important that they are framed with the idea that it is part of a larger pattern and that those stats be fresh in your mind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tonette Robinson

    "I know that society has issues and the hysteria sometimes gets overwhelming over the male hype. The book had me thinking back to the times of the riots and yet, that problem has emerged again. So, I found the book fascinating yet, for those times I could not recall I was a part of the whole issue they had as a rebirth child but it seems very interesting to the way men have faced their issues and I'm sure many people enjoy it while some still have mixed views." "I know that society has issues and the hysteria sometimes gets overwhelming over the male hype. The book had me thinking back to the times of the riots and yet, that problem has emerged again. So, I found the book fascinating yet, for those times I could not recall I was a part of the whole issue they had as a rebirth child but it seems very interesting to the way men have faced their issues and I'm sure many people enjoy it while some still have mixed views."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This book is call “12 angry man” by Gregory S. Part. It talked about twelve men which is Judgment a boy that maybe killed his father. At first, there are only one of them had gives him Innocence. But at last, all of them gives him Innocence.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ranette

    A great book about a jury who is debating conviction a man of a crime. All think he is guilty except one man and through his observations, others change their minds.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bob Anderson

    This is a collection of twelve accounts of racial profiling. The author’s identity and tone shifts between the chapter, but like Odysseus the reader can apprehend in the swirl a Protean form that connects each of them, the vastness of American racism. Stories from a law student, a baseball Hall of Famer, a recent high school graduate, several professors and more show readers that it is irrelevant in the eyes of racism what accomplishments one does or doesn’t have, that the experience transcends This is a collection of twelve accounts of racial profiling. The author’s identity and tone shifts between the chapter, but like Odysseus the reader can apprehend in the swirl a Protean form that connects each of them, the vastness of American racism. Stories from a law student, a baseball Hall of Famer, a recent high school graduate, several professors and more show readers that it is irrelevant in the eyes of racism what accomplishments one does or doesn’t have, that the experience transcends all categories we create and assign to people other than the category of race. Bryonn Bain’s “The Bill of Rights for Black Men” is a wrenching first story in this volume; his account of profiling and arrest is punctuated with harsh reformulations of the first ten amendments to reflect the reality of how the Constitution is applied to black men. This is the kind of writing that can provoke you to read all twelve stories in a single night; I recommend it. The road is full of twists and turns, but eventually you drift into an easy pattern where you think to yourself, I know what’s coming next: this cop won’t believe that you could live in this neighborhood, and now you’ll be searched without a warrant or cause, and now you’ll be obstructed in getting this officer’s identification for a complaint, and on and on. Now take a step back and realize that for a large part of our nation, these predictions, these routine forecasts of how police may abuse their power against black men are not just produced by the relentlessly pounding flow of a book but are formed from lived experience, both personal and communal. If you have a need to feel a small part of what living in this system as a black man might feel like, read this book. It is well worth your time. This final paragraph is not directly related to Twelve Angry Men, but to some of those who could benefit most from reading it. There is a segment of the American population that believes that black men are not actually profiled, or at least no more so than this segment believes their crimes merit. Some of them may say about this book such trivialities as “The plural of anecdote is not data!” (If you want data, I would recommend the DoJ report on racism in the Ferguson system, or any number of scholarly articles or books on the subject). People who argue that stories like these should be discounted, considered immaterial, argue against taking seriously the lived experiences of millions. Can no single expression in words of an individual experience actually matter? Must a phenomenon be reduced from a multitude of intricately detailed interactions in time and space to a few numbers to be worth thinking seriously about? I reject these conceptions: the data is elsewhere, as it must be, and the soul is here. Embrace it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lora

    It would be odd to say I enjoyed this book. Enjoyed isn't really the right word. It intrigued me, disturbed me, made me question assumptions I have made before. All together, an uncomfortable book. And yet, one I am glad to have read. I am still thinking about this collection of true stories, especially in light of current events. It's never comfortable when your view of the world is challenged, but sometimes it can be a good thing. It would be odd to say I enjoyed this book. Enjoyed isn't really the right word. It intrigued me, disturbed me, made me question assumptions I have made before. All together, an uncomfortable book. And yet, one I am glad to have read. I am still thinking about this collection of true stories, especially in light of current events. It's never comfortable when your view of the world is challenged, but sometimes it can be a good thing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    With all that has happened on the streets of America, these past months this book was so appropriate with the police racial profiling of black men and the "quick draw" of their guns on these men. The essays say it all about black/brown men not being able to trust law officials, from the average to not so average black/brown man in the U.S.A. With all that has happened on the streets of America, these past months this book was so appropriate with the police racial profiling of black men and the "quick draw" of their guns on these men. The essays say it all about black/brown men not being able to trust law officials, from the average to not so average black/brown man in the U.S.A.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tahni Candelaria

    An excellent introduction to the racism that remains inherent in American society. A collection of stories that I tore through quickly, my eyes still being opened to even my own prejudice. The stories were easy to read, yet very disheartening at times. So glad I read it, despite how upsetting some of it was.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Few books have reached me the way this one did. Of course, I knew that racial profiling was rampant -- yet hearing the accounts of people who experienced this injustice was eye-opening. This book is a must-read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Donnell

    Very well put together book. A must read for anyone genuinely interested in walking a mile in another man's shoes. Educational and informative. 12 views of America that you probably won't get from mainstream media. Very well put together book. A must read for anyone genuinely interested in walking a mile in another man's shoes. Educational and informative. 12 views of America that you probably won't get from mainstream media.

  28. 4 out of 5

    AnaFernanda Cardenas

    12 Angry Men by Gregory S. Parks is fascinating story about 12 completely different opinionated man with strong personalities decide the case of a young boy whom is thought of murdering his father. The 12 angry men gather together to make decision of the life of child... is he guilty or not.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Powerful book of essays from 12 men, all different walks of life, different socio-economic status, different ages but each sharing their personal stories of racial discrimination, harassment and abuse. Powerful.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jess Lagos

    Good play. Very well written.

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