An urgent call for safer, more inclusive communities for everyone . . . Highly illuminating account of the changes required to create a more democratic society for all.”
“Progressive activists, community organizers, and elected officials should take note of this commonsense guide.”
“Bright, talented, compassionate, strategic, and committed . . . Norris’s insights and story will be an enormously important contribution in the effort to advance human rights in this country.”
—Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
“In We Keep Us Safe, Norris masterfully captures our deep yearning for connection and compassion as we navigate the complex issue of accountability and reminds us of our humanity and that we have a choice to do things differently. Even more encouraging, Norris invites us to tap into our resourcefulness and to rely on one another to challenge the failed experiment of the current punitive carceral state and reimagine safety and accountability together. We deserve to live in our full dignity and power and Norris, through this book, shows us how.”
—Patrisse Cullors, author of When They Call You a Terrorist
“Zach’s words are a must-read for anyone who cares about a more just and more compassionate future. He shows us the world that might be possible when we lead with empathy, when we humanize rather than criminalize each other, and when we seek restoration rather than retribution. And perhaps most importantly, he gives us hope that it’s a world in which we might one day live.”
—Jennifer Siebel Newsome, First Partner of California, filmmaker, and founder of the Representation Project
“Zach Norris [is] among the most promising leaders and thinkers of our time, wrestling with pressing questions at the intersection of racial and economic justice from a human rights perspective. . . . We Keep Us Safe powerfully demonstrates that safety, freedom, and justice come from relationships, resources, and real accountability—not more punishment, police, and prisons.”
“Zach Norris’s powerful book offers an inspiring blueprint for justice beyond prisons and courts—and paints a picture of a brighter future for all of us.”
—Sally Kohn, author of The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity
“We Keep Us Safe is a profoundly important contribution to our thinking about what safety is, what’s undermining it, and how to advance it. Norris draws on an amazing array of ideas and resources to show us that it is not walls and jails we need more of, but care, connection, and community.”
—Annie Leonard, executive director, Greenpeace US
“A powerful book that is very much in the tradition of Ella Baker’s radical humanitarianism. Rejecting fear-based, revenge-based models of ‘justice,’ Norris’s work pays homage to an entire generation of activists who are not only clear about what they are against but who are collectively creating a vision and a practice of what the future could look like. A must-read.”
—Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
“Looking at our moment in time through the lens of safety is a brilliant insight—it gets at what so many of us are feeling every day. By offering real solutions rooted in a new way of thinking, Zach Norris has done our society a great service.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
“In his excellent new book, Zach Norris writes with insight, inspiring stories, and a vision that includes everyone—just what we need to move from fear to caring, and from a system of punishment to one of transformative justice. We Keep Us Safe identifies the roots of our fear, insecurity and vulnerability, offers a way forward together, and provides practical, workable strategies for public policy change. Reading this book will alter the way you understand safety, security, and justice. We so need the caring, fierceness, and insight Norris brings us in these challenging times.”
—Paul Kivel, educator, activist, and author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice
“In this thoughtful and ambitious book, Zach Norris expands the story of justice. . . . He reaches back in time—how did we get here?—and he reaches forward, envisioning a compassionate future that promises much greater safety, particularly for all those who are most vulnerable in today’s world.”
—From the foreword by Van Jones, author of Rebuild the Dream
An urgent call for safer, more inclusive communities for everyone.
Currently in the United States, general anxiety, racism, classism, and economic insecurity are some of the factors contributing to an unhealthy society in which no one, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic status, really feels safe. Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, provides readers with a comprehensive look at how American society has evolved into an "Us vs. Them" scenario. "This fear-based mode," writes the author, "defines safety only in terms of being free from crime and criminals, which is limited and limiting….With or without literal incarceration, millions of people are cast as ‘others' and ‘bad guys,' including many children who have a hard time focusing in school [and] many people whose anxiety and depression pushes them to consider suicide." After analyzing the myriad problems with this fear-based model, he gives an optimistic view of what could take its place: a care-based model that would "replace deprivation, suspicion, punishment and isolation with resources, relationships, accountability, and participation." Throughout, the author uses sufficient data and personal stories gleaned from interviews to substantiate his claims that the current system is broken. He then provides solid evidence of alternative programs that have been successful, such as Families for Books Not Bars. In the third section of the book, Norris recounts individual stories that illustrate his points and gives lists of recommended actions, such as initiating a federal child benefit program, improving student-teacher ratios in schools, decriminalizing drug possession, and increasing the number of reentry programs for those released from incarceration. The author argues that Americans are at a crossroads, and we must abandon the path of fear, propagated by the current presidential administration, and switch to a more equitable model of real democracy.
Highly illuminating account of the changes required to create a more democratic society for all.