‘Kill the Black One First’ was a phrase shouted by rioters at Brixton as the police officers formed a barrier. This memoir from Michael Fuller is a powerful and thought-provoking book. I’m very grateful to the publishers and Net-galley for the chance to read it. It’s a departure from my norm, but contributes to my Non-Fiction Adventure challenge.
Kill the Black One First
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. He took a pivotal role in the formation of Operation Trident, which tackled gun crime and gang warfare in the London community, and was later appointed as chief constable of Kent.
Kill the Black One First is a raw and unflinching account of a life in policing during a tumultuous period of race relations throughout the UK.
‘Kill the Black One First’ was a phrase shouted by rioters at Brixton as the police officers formed a barrier to control them. Michael Fuller selected it as the title for his memoir of life in isolation. Brought up in care, the only black kid; the bright boy in school—’can’t be right’, say the teachers; a black policeman on the beat—what’s he doing from both sides.
Michael Fuller was lucky enough to be given sound principles from a remarkable housemother in the 60s/70s. When he first started to realise he was ‘different’, she helped him understand why, and gave him his guiding principle. Stop, think – is it you or a generic slur? Only then decide whether you have something to say on the subject or to let it ride. Many of us could usefully use this technique without half the provocation heaped on this boy. Yet it helped him become one of the most senior police officers in London’s notoriously racist Metropolitan Police.
self-reliance starts early
The young boy is threatened with homelessness at 16 – just one of the penalties of being a child in care in the 1970s. Having admired the police from the start, with tv shows, and then a burglary at the home, he spots an opportunity. He becomes a police cadet at 16, with live-in accommodation. This will also give him the chance to become a police officer and be sponsored through university. Self-reliance started before even this, as he tell us about a school project.
People who have lived in the London area from the 80s onwards will find themselves pushed back down memory lane. It will be from an unexpected angle. On the front line at the Brixton riots. Dealing with stabbings on Shepherds Bush Green. Separating the lonely from the wealthy down Vine Street and Soho. Experiencing the breakdown in policing in Streatham, and the almost cosy welcome in the outwardly similar area of Lambeth, right next door.
And every now and then you get an insight into Jamaican immigrant culture. The difficulties of second generation Windrush immigrants; the white world turning on their generosity and hurling it back in their face.
Sensitively and powerfully written, and thought-provoking from start to finish. This is a brilliant book.KILL THE BLACK ONE FIRST Sensitively and powerfully written, and thought-provoking from start to finish. Michael Fuller writes a brilliant book. #London #police #diversity #ktbof #netgalley Click To Tweet
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