Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Book Review

P H E N O M E N A L

“A story of Justice and Redemption”

Beginning from the introduction up until the very last page, I couldn’t put this book down. It was everything I didn’t know I needed. In his memoir, Stevenson passionately exposes and calls us to action on the racial injustice and class discrimination that takes place in America; all while exonerating Walter McMillian, a wrongfully convicted man on death row. Bryan Stevenson selflessly dedicated his career to helping underprivileged, poor and incarcerated youth and adults, and is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. 

In a time where I often felt angry and hopeless about the lack of difference I could make in overcoming and challenging racial injustice, Stevenson reminds me of the difference one person can make. His ability to create and fight with such conviction was so inspiring! Though it is written from the perspective of an attorney, I believe this should be a required read for everyone! 

Here are some things that resonated with me:

  • It’s not worth being angry or reacting to someone who is rude to you. It’s better to empathize and be compassionate. Many times, their anger is not towards you, but a reflection of their own pain and their inability to cope. After reading a case in this book, I realized the same person can have a transformative experience – whether it’s based on how I chose to respond or on a personal account. Essentially, we all have the capacity to change; and I’m choosing “hope” and “faith” that this applies to racist individuals. 
  • With my desire to help poor, underprivileged people, I realized it’s not enough to know the history and present-day issues. Stevenson puts in perspective that we need analytical and reasoning courses to better understand America’s racial and systemic issues. It’s equally (if not more) important to “develop the skills to quantify and deconstruct the discrimination and inequality” in America.

There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

This is the quote that brought it all together for me. There are many parts of me that are broken, parts of me that have cracks. In family, in myself, in the experiences I’ll never have – inversely, in the experiences I’ll never forget. But like Stevenson, my understanding of my “cracks” and “brokenness” is what allows me to see it in other people. It’s what gives me the strength to look for the solutions to heal someone else – and maybe a small part of the world.

On the same account, I think if we took more time to see the brokenness in our system and the oppressive experiences of those different from us, we would “beat the drum for justice” and give opportunity for mercy with our privilege.