REVIEW: Kill the Black One First, Michael Fuller

Monday, 16 September 2019

A story about race, identity, belonging and displacement, Kill the Black One First is the memoir from Michael Fuller - Britain's first ever black Chief Constable, whose life and career is not only a stark representation of race relations in the UK, but also a unique morality tale of how humanity deals with life's injustices. Michael Fuller was born to Windrush-generation Jamaican immigrants in 1959, and experienced a meteoric career in policing, from the beat to the Brixton inferno, through cutting edge detective work to the frontline of drug-related crime and violence on London's most volatile estates.

“Kill the Black One First” is a raw, unflinching look at the institutional racism of the British police force from someone who stood at its frontlines for more than three-and-a-half decades. In this vital and moving memoir, Michael Fuller, the first (and so far only) ethnic minority chief constable in the United Kingdom, speaks frankly on the pivotal moments of his long, illustrious life: his often-difficult relationship with his Windrush Generation parents, his life growing up in care, his entry into the police force and the realities of policing in a Britain rife with casual racism, racial profiling, and a chronic mistrust of the police in black communities.
Fuller pursued justice; an innate sense of right and wrong instilled in him by the most important person in his life, the housemother of his care home whom the book is dedicated to. And yet, after her death when he was just sixteen, reality soon chipped away at the idea that the police could always be a force of good. That is because, for much of his life working for the Metropolitan Police, he was subject to the horrific daily racism of the predominately white police force and the minutiae of (sometimes subconscious, most of the time, not so) racial bias inflicted by them on the black communities they were supposed to protect.
And, when all that he had long since known was eventually confirmed by the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1999 by Sir William Macpherson, six long years after the teenager had been murdered in a racially-motivated attack; Fuller worked tirelessly to build relationships between the police and black communities and helped set up the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force to make sure nothing so horrifying would ever happen again.
Through his tenancy and his strength of character, Michael Fuller managed to do what many black and ethnic minority police officers have, with good reason, not been able; to cope with the virulent words and attitudes of both his colleagues and the members of the general public, to prove to them all what his housemother knew right from the start. That Michael, and all of his innate goodness, is worth more than those attitudes ever have been.
I just wish, more than anything, that he hadn’t had to.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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