The Black Kids is set in 1992 shortly after Rodney King, a Black man, is beaten nearly to death by LAPD officers. There is a trail of these officers and they are acquitted of all the charges. It is not long before Los Angeles is filled with protests and roots. The idea of race is now a central focus in a way that it wasn’t before. This is especially true for high school senior Ashley Bennett.
Ashley is a black student at a private high school and has been fortunate to live a relatively stress free life. She has been protected and sheltered from certain events that have occurred both within their family and within the community. Her parents have their reasons for this but in many ways she has been far too sheltered. All of this start to change after the Rodney King trial.
The events of the Rodney King beating and trial force Ashley to examine her life. Suddenly she is more aware of being the Black friend in her friends group. She becomes more alert and recognizes the racism which has always been present. She feels pulled to get to know the other Black students, and learns more about her family dynamics and circumstances. Throughout all of this she fully begins to understand how Blacks are supposed to be in America and what is expected of them.
This book was a rollercoaster. From the beginning I did not care for Ashley’s group of friends. They are just ugh! and I was pleased to be witness of Ashley’s growth and awareness. This is a coming of age story and told entirely through Ashley’s point of view. In some ways, Ashley is equally as bad of a friend due to her choices. Not to compare her friends racism behavior to her poor choices. All of this provided a good blend of a poignant storyline and teenage angst. This story is just so emotional and provides access to important social issues that are often over looked.
The reason I say that The Black Kids provides access to important to social issues that are often overlooked is because it really shows how little certain things have changed since 1992 to present day. Through the eyes of Ashley, you see the hurt and injustice that Black people often face in their everyday lives. You also see how this impacts them within their families and communities. It is beautifully written – with a flow that is sometimes disjointed but goes with the overall theme and feel of the book I highly recommend this to all readers from young adult to adult.
Rating: 4 Stars