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WE KEEP US SAFE by Zach Norris


Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities

by Zach Norris

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-80-702970-1
Publisher: Beacon

An urgent call for safer, more inclusive communities for everyone.

Currently in the United States, general anxiety, racism, classism, and economic insecurity are some of the factors contributing to an unhealthy society in which no one, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic status, really feels safe. Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, provides readers with a comprehensive look at how American society has evolved into an “Us vs. Them” scenario. “This fear-based mode,” writes the author, “defines safety only in terms of being free from crime and criminals, which is limited and limiting….With or without literal incarceration, millions of people are cast as ‘others’ and ‘bad guys,’ including many children who have a hard time focusing in school [and] many people whose anxiety and depression pushes them to consider suicide.” After analyzing the myriad problems with this fear-based model, he gives an optimistic view of what could take its place: a care-based model that would “replace deprivation, suspicion, punishment and isolation with resources, relationships, accountability, and participation.” Throughout, the author uses sufficient data and personal stories gleaned from interviews to substantiate his claims that the current system is broken. He then provides solid evidence of alternative programs that have been successful, such as Families for Books Not Bars. In the third section of the book, Norris recounts individual stories that illustrate his points and gives lists of recommended actions, such as initiating a federal child benefit program, improving student-teacher ratios in schools, decriminalizing drug possession, and increasing the number of reentry programs for those released from incarceration. The author argues that Americans are at a crossroads, and we must abandon the path of fear, propagated by the current presidential administration, and switch to a more equitable model of real democracy.

Highly illuminating account of the changes required to create a more democratic society for all.