As a young white woman, I’m not sure that this was necessarily a book written “for me”, but as an American, I can tell you that Federick Reynolds’ Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement is a tale that all of us should sit up and pay attention to.
Opening with his tumultuous childhood in 1960s Detroit, Michigan, his time in the military stationed on the West Coast, and eventually documenting his life and career as first a police officer, and then a sheriff’s deputy in one of the most notorious cities in the country, Reynolds’ memoir is aptly named, he has lived an odyssey of a life. As much the story of a city, its various governing and policing bodies, and a very specific few decades in our nation’s history as it is the life and times of a single man, Black, White, and Gray All Over showcases many of the things that seem to have made Reynolds a great law enforcement officer.
Rich in the specific details of the crimes he investigated, the men and women he served with, and the pain he endured, this is a memoir that makes me wish I knew more about my country’s recent history so that I could comment more precisely on the accuracy of what Reynolds lays out. As it is, I can firmly tell readers that this is a harrowing piece of literature, documenting racism, violence, corruption, and those who stand in the gap despite it all.
Black, White, and Gray All Over swirls through time, moving fluidly through the years as Reynolds is able to look back over long-running investigations or cases with the clear-sightedness that comes from decades of separation. At times the moving back and forth in time can get minorly distracting, but Reynolds’ prose is engaging throughout, and the chronicle he gives us: one of good people, bad people, people who hide their true selves, and those who wear their truth on their sleeves, is breathtaking.
Through his eyes, Compton itself, the community he spent decades policing, becomes a living, breathing, bleeding character. One that has been a victim of corrupt officials, plagued by violence beyond reason, and yet Reynolds never loses sight of the people that lived and worked there during his tenure. Those who struggled, scraped, and fought to rise above what Compton had been to make it better for their children.
The success, or failure of those struggles, I will leave up to other readers with greater understanding of the full context to decide.
Minute in detail, rich in history, and unflinching in personal reflection, Black, White, and Gray All Over is unique memoir from a man who has, quite frankly, seen more than his fair share of sh*t and lived to tell the tale.