3 out of 4 stars
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"As I listened to him, it affirmed in my mind that I had been in trouble with the law way more than he and his friends. This was not because I had done worse things. I had, in fact, done things that were similar to what he had done. However, while his offenses were overlooked, mine were relentlessly punished. I realized this was because he was white and because I was black."
The above quote illustrates the conclusion of both Cameron Johnson and Jim Trebbien after they became friends through a college mentoring program. Despite their differences in age and race, the two men soon realize that they share some remarkable commonalities. However, the difference in their paths and consequences are black and white, literally. In A Journey to Understanding Race in America: A Story of Friendship, Trebbien shares stories from the lives of both men that provide a firsthand glimpse of prejudice based on race.
While much of the book compares and contrasts the two men's backgrounds and experiences, I particularly like the sections that focus on their seemingly unlikely friendship. Despite being paired as mentors, both men admit their initial reservations about meeting but willingly put aside their doubts. As a result, they discover that their Christian faith is not the only thing they share in common. For instance, both men are happily married to their second wives after being falsely accused of domestic violence during their first marriages. The allegations against Jim, a "white kid from the 1960s," ended after being questioned by the police. Unfortunately, the allegations against Cameron, an "African-American kid from the 2000s," resulted in a felony conviction.
I also appreciate Cameron's enlightening perspective regarding "Officer Friendly," his term for those who seem polite but have an unfriendly agenda and mindset. Trebbien encourages readers to evaluate their intentions and to "really listen."
On the other hand, I dislike the repetitious content in the 140-page book. There are several times when the same sentence is repeated in a chapter. Although there are few grammatical errors, there are instances when Trebbien's writing seems choppy due to the constant jumping back and forth from the past to the present. Overall, the book needs another round of editing.
For all of the above reasons, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. Despite the editing issues, Trebbien's account of his and Cameron's similar life choices with very different results is a compelling read. For readers who consider "hell" borderline profanity, I will note the word is used twice; otherwise, there is no profanity. I recommend the book to readers interested in a personal perspective of race and ethnic studies. It will also appeal to those who appreciate stories about friendship.
A journey to Understanding Race in America
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