Home of the Oppressed, Land of the Free

Dear Martin By Nic Stone Book Review



Dear Martin by Nic Stone discusses the challenges African Americans face, such as police brutality and systemic racism, while justifying the importance of people having a support system in the midst of a prejudiced society.

America is meant to be the land of freedom for all; however, most African Americans still fight for their basic rights to equality today. Justyce McAllister, the main character in Dear Martin by Nic Stone, is the perfect example of this. He deals with the stereotypical hardships Black people experience that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) sought to change.

Throughout the entirety of the book, all Justyce wants to do is help people and be an inspiration, just like his hero, MLK. When he is presented with a problem where he has the chance to change the status quo for people in his community he asks himself, ‘‘What would Martin do’’?

brings to light police brutality, systematic racism, and the importance of having a support system while facing discrimination to inform readers of the constant prejudice African Americans endure each day.

This country was founded with the belief that Black people were only three-fifths of a person, and Stone shows the repercussions African Americans face in today’s society due to this. Justyce McAllister is someone who fights his way out of his highly impoverished community, where most people do not make it past high school, all the way to an Ivy League college.

He is determined to avoid the path in life most people suspected he would take, and did successfully; however, people still see him as a minority. Jusyce experiences the pain of racial profiling from police bias, racist remarks from his classmates, and the loss of his best friend over a dispute with a man who is just as bad as the rest. He has gone through struggles and heartbreak simply due to the color of his skin. Stone explains that despite Justyce’s best efforts to overcome racism, it still stands in the way of people seeing him as an equal.

Nic Stone’s novel has a powerful scene in which she demonstrates how police officers have suppressed Black people from living their everyday lives. Justyce was walking home from a party and saw Melo Taylor, his ex-girlfriend, intoxicated and struggling to get home. He decides to take initiative and help her get back to her house safely; however, she fights back and starts hitting him to get him out of her way. A police officer sees this scene unfold and gets a hold of Justyce, slamming him up against the car, while putting him in handcuffs. Justyce tries to explain the situation, but the officer ignores him calling him a “punk” and accusing him of harassing the “pretty white girl,” while punching him repeatedly (Stone 8).

This scene captures the raw, uncut tragedy that police officers are allowed to racially profile with no punishment. As Justyce is reflecting on the events that night he writes to MLK in the diary: “…it’s supposed to be illegal to discriminate, but if I can be forced to sit on the concrete in too-tight cuffs when I’ve done nothing wrong, it’s clear there’s an issue. That things aren’t as equal as folks say they are” (Stone 12-13). Justyce falls victim to police brutality that night and it leaves a mark on him. He will forever remember that moment when someone treated him as less of a person on the basis of his skin color.

Mr. Jullian, Justyce’s friend’s dad, shares how he experienced systemic racism in the workplace firsthand. He explains, “I worked much harder than my caucasian colleagues but rarely received a fraction of recognition” (Stone 112). Mr. Julian has to work twice as hard as his Caucasian colleagues because he was deemed unfit by his skin color in society. If race was not an issue he would be working the same amount as others while getting the same amount of benefits. African Americans are degraded at their jobs and judged by classmates because that is how these adults and kids were raised, Black people are not as equal.

During a class discussion about equality, a classmate went after Justyce calling him the “minority’’ at Yale University. This portrays the systemic racism embedded in America. A person looked at his ancestry, rather than his intellectual abilities, and made the biased decision he is not “qualified” to be at a college that is predominately high-class white students. Whether the racism in these examples is unnoticeable or blatantly evident, these characters, and people in real life, have to put up with this treatment everyday for simply being who they are, Black Americans.

When someone has to experience both the torture and pain of police brutality and racism they need a support system to help them and keep their spirits up, and that is exactly what MLK is to Justyce. Whether it was the time he was racially profiled or witnessed the death of his best friend due to racial motivation, Justyce looks to MLK for guidance. Although Justyce is confused and not sure where his future leads, he leans on MLK for support and hopes everything will be okay. After reading an old letter MLK wrote at his age, Justyce writes, “Not sure if you were the Martin the world is familiar with… but knowing you were my age gives me hope that I’ve got some time to figure things out” (Stone 202).

MLK was living proof that hard work can make a change if one fights to overcome the obstacles in their way.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone discusses the challenges African Americans face, such as police brutality and systemic racism, while justifying the importance of people having a support system in the midst of a prejudiced society. As long as police brutality has been around, systemic racism has been around even longer. This novel took some of the hardships African Americans have faced their whole lives to make readers challenge the idea of how free this country really is.

I recommend Dear Martin to anyone interested in gaining a broader perspective of how a Black man in this “free land” can be oppressed and the hopelessness of change they envision.