Did anything positive come out of this? While Peele seems a bit cloudy on this point, he also appears to imply that the answer is yes. Though he may have somewhat embellished the grit and grimness of Oakland, he also acknowledges the thousands of young black men taken in off the streets, or when fresh out of prison, who would have likely been behind bars—or behind bars again—had they not been offered productive jobs and educated in matters of self-worth, physical and mental discipline, and personal integrity, and who may well have gone on to live better lives by using these teachings as a basis to self-educate and think for themselves. In other words, Peele seems to realize there are shades of gray in everything—no absolute evil, no untarnished good, and few saints or devils without their own motives.

Killing The Messenger may well be the best, most thoroughly researched, and—with exceptions noted—most objective book thus far written on this subject, and is no doubt destined to become required reading in many colleges and universities. Hopefully, it will also be read in prisons, to educate young black men that Tricknology comes in all colors. If the devil is indeed in the details, Peele has given us many demons to exorcise.


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Jess Mowry is the author of 15 books and numerous short stories, mostly about black youth in Oakland, California. He lives in Oakland.