In novel Dear Martin, by Nic Stone, the story shows that the average black person has to struggle and work harder than the average white person to gain social mobility in the U.S. In addition, she explores how challenging it is for African Americans to succeed on an upward path, demonstrating that despite their achievements, even the most successful people still face hardships. When Jus introduces himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his diary, he describes his admirable accomplishments, saying, “I’m ranked fourth in my 83-year graduation class, I’m captain of the Debate Team, I scored 1560 and 34 on my SATs and ACTs, respectively, and despite growing up in the’ bad’ area … I have a future ahead of me that will likely include an Ivy League education, an eventual degree, and a career in public policy” (Stone, 10). Jus wants to be successful and work hard, and it’s evident. Expanding on this idea, it’s evident that Jus wants to work hard in school and do something with his life despite the fact that he grew up is a ghetto neighborhood. This idea is most common for Americans in America because at times, coming from a poor income family, education is the only escape that a person can find in order to break the barrier of being unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, following his horrific experience with Officer Castillo, where he gets arrested for trying to drive his ex-girlfriend home when she was drunk, the hope he had before fades away. “Sadly, during the wee hours of this morning, literally none of my accomplishments mattered,” he tells Dr. King in his diary the next day (Stone, 10). After the police encounter, Jus felt like whatever he does, no matter what, the police will always see him as a thug, despite him going to a prestigious school. Jus realized that for the first time, that hard work and dedication wouldn’t necessarily protect him against racism.
A study led by HuffPost explains that, ” We cannot talk about American history without talking about African American history” because acknowledge it or not, ” African Americans fertilized and impregnated the soil of America with the drippings of their blood, sweat, and tears”(Gaston). That is especially true because African Americans have endured so much hatred, discrimination, and racism from white people dating backing to slavery. From the past experiences and history itself, some part of society has found a way to mistreat African Americans even after slavery ended. To further explain it, from HuffPost, “the African American experience is nestled in struggle and liberation. It is under girded by multiple forms of oppression and degradation. It is a story of how we survived the horrors of slavery, the domestic terror and violence of the Ku Klux Klan, the ferocity of Jim Crow Sr., and the lingering residue of Jim Crow Jr. in the 21st century” (Gaston). The residue of Jim Crow still lives in the 21st century because some people still see African Americans as a threat, not worthy or valuable as opposed to a white person. From experience of watching a movie trailer called American Son, an African American woman lost her son. A white police officer came to her house asking her if her son went by any street name or if her son had distinct features like gold teeth. The women kept asking the officer about her lost son and the officer didn’t tell her but instead had the head of police chief come by. Surprisingly, the head of police chief who was white, turned out to be her husband. It wasn’t until the head police chief asked where their son was, that the man had a definite answer. See, the police officer that came to her house stereotyped her son without realizing who his father was and that he was white.
To expand further on the idea, from the constitutional rights foundation, “in the 17th and 18th centuries, some blacks gained their freedom, acquired property, and gained access to American society.” Although that is true, living in the 21st century, Jus has so many other rights more than what was given to African Americans years ago. Yet, the police officer still saw him as being different because he “fits the description,” the same stereotype that society has placed on African Americans. See, African Americans have always lived under the constant threat of violence; the only difference now is the time. The past always finds back to the future because although slavery was abolished years ago and members like the KKK don’t exist anymore, it seems there’s a way threat of violence that erupts, thus being police brutality.
That’s precisely what Jus endured when, “his head smacks the door frame…..his upper body slams onto the trunk with so much force,…his mouth fills with blood” (Stone, 7). After being knocked against a car door, handcuff for hours without a say because the white police officer with the gun said, “‘now, if you know what’s good for you, you won’t move or speak…look at me when am talking to you, boy'” (Stone,8). Jus thought he would never be in a situation like this. Still, it turns out he was wrong because no matter how accomplished or successful a black person is, the first thing that a prejudice white police officer sees is the color of their skin despite everything above that. In the end, what is so wrong with being black? What is so wrong with being different? What is so wrong for not wanting a police officer to judge a black person before they shoot? I hope to find answers to those questions, but for now, I cannot, as they ponder my mind over and over again, especially in today’s world.
Costly, Andrew. “An Overview of the African-American Experience.” Constitutional Rights Foundation, https://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/an-overview-of-the-african-american-experience.
Gaston, Dr.Herron Keyon. “Black History Is American History.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Apr. 2015, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-history-is-american-history_b_6618602.
STONE, NIC. DEAR MARTIN. CROWN, 2019.
I am co-signing Donta’s shout out….
Thanks for sharing this thoughtful review and response to Nic Stone’s novel, Dear Martin. Last year, my students at U School, had the opportunity to meet Ms. Stone at a book talk at one of our local public libraries in Philadelphia. We enjoyed her talk. During her talk, she really helped enhance her characters’ background stories. Reading your review and thinking of Jus, Jim Crow Jr, and Police Brutality makes me more interested in seeing the film Queen and Slim. Have you seen this movie yet? Based on your response to Dear Martin I would love to read your review of the film Queen and Slim 🙂