The justice system in the UK is broken, that we can probably all agree on. In Black and White is the account of a young, brave woman who decided that the prejudice and negativity that surrounds Black people and other ethnic minorities must stop: this is her story.
Alexandra Wilson is an Essex-based female Barrister. Since the harrowing death of her friend Ayo, at such a young age, she decided that she would start the journey that would allow her to make a real difference in the lives of so many. Her mother is White British, and her father is Black British. Alexandra studied at Oxford, allowing her to later become a Barrister.
After the death of childhood friend, Ayo, Alexandra made the choice to enter into the profession of law despite her thoughts that this job may not be for ‘people like me’. Not only does Ms Wilson has not only faced professional adversity, but personal issues as a young Black woman.
Alexandra tells us the story of how, and why, she chose the profession she did. The UK justice system is ‘broken’, and as someone from a minority background, she tells us how her time as a pupil (training to become a Barrister), both in the court and outside it, has challenged her in ways most people cannot imagine.
Despite Barristers being trusted to represent every background, race and gender, the profession itself lacks that very same diversity; there are far more white men that any other race and gender within this job.
Ms Wilson tells us how the system works, and gives us behind the scenes details of how cases in the courts actually run and, most importantly, how entering this profession has not only changed her life, but the lives of those she has represented.
So, what did I think?
This book was different to any other I have read before it. Ms Wilson’s account of her struggles and hardship, both before becoming a Barrister and afterwards, hit me rather hard as while I knew ethnic minorities (and other groups) struggled, I had no idea how many people are affected by the criminal justice system.
In Black and White is nothing short of phenomenal. Alexandra’s experiences shape this book and it really is a rollercoaster. I found some parts hard to read in the sense that the content, that included stories of racism and sexism, took me aback; I hate to believe that people act so rudely in a professional environment and let their prejudices show.
Each page had such a powerful message; whether the content was about Black people, elderly clients, or even young children, the fact that so many people are left unrepresented and in the dark was a massive shock to me.
I am so glad I got to read this book, as it opened my eyes even further to the reality of the justice system in the UK. Ms Wilson is careful to explore every single nook and cranny; while ethnic minorities are of course a stark focus, she also includes stories where she has represented single parents, domestic abusers and victims, homeless people, and even children as young as 13-years-old.
To hear a first-person account from such a strong woman made me smile; the positive notes in Ms Wilson’s story were wonderful, especially after hearing some pretty devastating anecdotes. The tales of when she went to pick out her legal clothes with her nan, to when she heard she’d been accepted and would become a fully-qualified Barrister, were simply delightful to read.
Alexandra’s journey is one filled with passion, drive, and resilience; even though she has been racially profiled and mistaken for a criminal while dressed as a Barrister, this hasn’t stopped her from founding organizations such as Black Women in Law, and from making a legitimate difference in our legal system.
In Black and White is an exceptional story, to say the least. An educational yet personal account of the issues many people still face today, and what it means to peruse your dreams; this book is a fantastic way to open eyes to the issues within the legal profession and justice system. Simply sensational.
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
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Author of the fourth novel in the Poe and Tilly series of books, Mike Craven, lives in Carlisle with his wife Joanne and their springer spaniel. In 2015, Mike decided to become a fully-fledged author...
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