“This is the world we live in.”
That was the mantra the New York City Times ran in response to the death of James Byrd, the black man killed by a white officer in South Carolina.
“I just can’t stand to see a black man in the street being killed,” said New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
“We don’t have to be the ones to tell the story.
We don’t need to tell it in black and white.
We just need to be able to see it.”
And so it was that in the months after Byrd’s death, Kristof began writing about race and inequality in America and in other countries.
In “No One Is Safe,” Kristof writes of the black men and women who have been killed by cops in his hometown of Cleveland and New York, of the Black Lives Matter protests and of the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
The book was widely lauded and soon became a bestseller.
It’s been published in over 50 countries, including Australia, and it’s been translated into many languages.
And yet, it’s a hard sell for a publication that prides itself on being progressive and accessible.
“This book is a response to this year’s presidential election,” Kristoff said.
“The notion that there’s this great white elite that is in control of the world is something that we all are struggling with, in some cases for the first time in our lives.
But it’s also a reaction to the ways in which we’ve seen the American Dream taken away.”
For years, Kristoff has worked as a journalist for The New York Observer, the newspaper that first broke the story of the 1968 riots that rocked the nation.
In the 1970s, he wrote about the rise of the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers, a group that was at the forefront of anti-war and civil rights activism.
He also wrote about race relations in the United States during the 1980s.
And he worked for the New Yorker as an investigative reporter and editor before coming to The New Yorker.
But in the mid-2000s, as he wrote the book, he began to feel overwhelmed.
The first time I’d come back to the country was the night of September 11, 2001.
The plane hit the World Trade Center.
The towers were still standing.
I was standing on the balcony, on the South Street Seaport, and I saw the World War II Memorial in flames.
I watched the buildings fall.
And then I saw this plane.
I felt so sick.
I couldn’t get up from my chair.
And I thought, This is it.
This is my story.
And my body just sank.
I’d been there for three days.
I’m used to the world feeling like this.
But I felt like I was losing it.
I didn’t want to go back to New York anymore.
So I went to my family in Ohio.
My father and my brother lived in Cincinnati, and my mother had moved here from Brooklyn.
So we were like, We’ll just move to Columbus, Ohio.
It was the only place I could really go.
But then I got a call from my editor saying, You can’t just come back.
He told me I was out.
“You’ve got to leave now,” he said.
I went back to my apartment.
And as I sat there, thinking about what to do, I couldn.
I got home from work and my phone rang.
It had been a while since I’d heard from my father.
I called him.
I said, Daddy, I’ve been going through a tough time.
I just want to call you to say, I love you.
He said, No.
You’re not going to hear from me.
He never did.
I don’t think I had any choice.
It happened so fast.
Kristoff started writing “No one is safe” in 2007, shortly after he was fired from the Observer for writing a story that was critical of the newspaper’s editorial policies.
“It was the first thing I wrote about it that year,” Kriston said.
Kriston didn’t know what the book would be about, but he knew it would be an urgent, personal and honest look at the country’s history of racism.
He felt that if he could write about it, he would be able, as the former New Yorker editor, to get a message across.
In his first drafts, Kriston tried to include as much historical context as possible.
The United States was an empire that had existed for thousands of years, he said, and that empire has always been marked by inequality and oppression.
And so he made a list of everything that had happened to the African American population in the US in the first decades of the 20th century.
And in those first drafts he put the names of black people who had died in the nation’s capital.
“They’re the ones I wanted to be talking about,” Kristo said.
But when he was writing, Kristo also wanted to bring