As some of you know, I have been slowly awakening to the problem of systemic racism in our country and intentionally seeking out people and resources to continue to learn and empathize. I wrote about that here. When the opportunity to read a complimentary copy from Tyndale House publishers and review the new memoir 13 Days in Ferguson by Captain Ronald Johnson presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Because he belonged to the community, the governor thrust Captain Johnson, an African-American Missouri State Trooper, into a leadership role when the shooting of a young, unarmed black man caused rioting in the streets.
His earliest musing of this seemingly impossible situation made the hairs on my arms stand up. “I see both sides. But there shouldn’t be sides. Taking sides implies a winner and a loser. There are no winners here. Even if some police see it as a battle to be won, I see only a no-win situation. ” For the five previous nights since Michael Brown’s death on August 14, 2014 police lined up wearing riot gear – shields, camouflage, gas masks, bullet-proof vests – with military-style weapons at the ready and dogs restrained on leashes. Johnson, now in charge, decides on a different tactic. He marches. Not in a line of defense, but side by side with the protestors. Without even the covering of his bullet-proof vest. He walks and he talks and he listens. He gives the angry and hurting people of Ferguson what they haven’t had up until then. A voice.
During the anguishing days that he marched, he saw tiny victories and huge setbacks. Protestors initially saw him as the enemy because he wore a badge. Law enforcement, even those he had served alongside for years, questioned his loyalty to the badge due to his lack of force in dealing with the constituents. The Captain lets the reader into his loneliness and inner turmoil, and eventually the anguish that swallowed him whole when he felt forced to call for tear gas and riot gear as the protestors once again turned to violence and other criminal activity.
In the retelling of those harrowing days, Johnson admits to mistakes and regrets, but ultimately enough improvement in the community’s safety to call the city back to business as usual by the end of the month of August. And yet, everything has changed. After a relatively calm fall, the news in late November that the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer responsible for Brown’s death, again incites protests and riots. This time it lasts only a couple of days. Then in March of the following year, the Department of Justice concludes its 6 month investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, finding that it “was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents”, using force “almost exclusively on blacks and regularly stopp[ing] people without probable cause.” The police chief resigned one week later. Baby steps. Inches. But change.
Through it all Captain Johnson leaned on his faith in God and the sanctuary of the bathroom to cry out in prayer. And yet our country still bleeds. Cities all across the nation continue to have racially driven incidents and compare themselves to Ferguson. But as James Baldwin said,
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Click here to read the first chapter for free!
Love that you are digging into these issues! Excited to hear more of what you learned in this book when y’all visit, as I haven’t been able to read as much about Ferguson as I want. Can’t imagine carrying the burden Capt Johnson had to bear.
Me either, Ston. Love u.
Jeanie McCrary says
Captain Johnson’s memoir is riveting! The reader knows that he is a man of faith who loves all people! Just as Jesus asks, “Love One Another.” The captain live his faith in God and his love for family!
Yes! Thanks for commenting, Jeanie.
colleen m. arnold says
I am on a journey like yours and cant wait to read this book. Thanks for the review!
You’re welcome, Colleen.
Tina at Mommynificent says
Thanks for linking up at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
Debbie Kitterman says
Lauren, thanks for the review of this book. I look forward to reading things from Captain Johnsons perspective – from a man in the midst of it all, but looking through the eyes of faith and love.
Connie Rowland says
Great review Lauren. The quote, “I see both sides. But there shouldn’t be sides”, is so true. May God give us peace and bring us together in love. Praying for those who where affected by the riots in Ferguson. Blessings!
Thank you, Connie.
Julie Lefebure says
Thanks for this review. It’s one I’m adding to my “to read” list. There shouldn’t be sides. For sure.
Tea With Jennifer says
Looking from the other side of the World my heart wept for your nation & our world!
However, sadly it is not isolated to one nation or people group!
We are all created equal & precious in God’s sight…
Yes we are, Jennifer. Thanks for commenting.
That sounds like a really good book to read to give more understanding of the situation there. It must have been a really hard time for Captain Johnson, but I know God used him and still is through his book.
Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #porchstories.
I am blessed to be your neighbor this week at #Tuneinthursday! What a heart-wrenching memoir you have reviewed here. I especially love the quote you shared at the end: “nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Truly Jesus has spoke that same thing to us, when He asks us to seek Him, to look for the truth. This sounds like such a good book, and such good thoughts for all of us to face. Blessings to you!
Thank you, Bettie.
Wow! What a position to be in! But I’m sure God has Captain Johnson there for a reason.
I don’t know what the answer is but I do know Who the answer is.
That’ll preach Jerralea.
Sue Donaldson says
Thanks for this. I think I forget about these problems (except for Fox news!) – bec I don’t see them here in our little town – and it grieves me so. Such a great review – tweeted.
It’s is so easy to forget when you don’t think that way. Thanks for reading, Sue.
Mary Geisen says
The events at Ferguson were so pivotal and I am glad to hear about this book highlighting Captain Johnson’s experience. It sounds like a good read and a chance to gain an inside look at what happened.
Ed Lane says
Sad that Johnson let the thugs loot and burn down the city of Ferguson. His ineptness cost Ferguson dearly and now he expects to profit from a book praising his leadership. Pathetic.