Politics and Activism: not a how-to but a must-read.

Deray McKesson On the Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope  (2018) Viking Press: New York. (220 pages)

Deray McKesson is one of the key players in the protests in Ferguson that broke out the day after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014. McKesson would not call himself a leader of this organisation but he would call himself an activist and an advocate. This is not a history of the protest movement; nor is it a memoir; nor is it the journal of an activist; it’s not even a ‘how to’ to becoming a protester or activist: it’s all of these things and none of these things.

I found it a profound reading experience. As I try to move from ally to accomplice (101) I found McKesson’s writing accessible and inspiring. He encourages us not to rest on our laurels but to recognise when we also contribute to the problem. Even when we hope (and believe) that we don’t. We do. I know without knowing it that I contribute to a dialogue through a position of privilege that I struggle to shake off. But McKesson acknowledges that being aware of the privilege and acknowledging the privilege are steps in the right direction.

But, it’s very important not to see this as a book that helps to assuage whiteness and the guilt that should accompany the presence of whiteness. McKesson is writing this book for allies; he’s writing it for himself. To help organise his thoughts about the power of protest but that to remind us all that protest is not the final step. Protest is nothing without progress. We must move forward and that is where his reference to hope comes from.

Read this. It’s not a comfortable read. But it’s an enlightening one and thoughtful one. There are many of us who really need both.


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