New Books Nonfiction

One (White) Man ruins Black History Month.

One Man In, a new book by British white man Chris Craighead published by Simon & Schuster, has ruined Black History Month.

Black History Month, celebrated every February in the US, is known as a special time for Black people as their existence is acknowledged for the period of one whole month. Black people get to look back and reflect on their being humans in all ways that one can be. On this month, many organisations tend to do their utmost, if they can, to leave Black people alone.

Publishers Weekly decided that this month was the one to come at Black folks. Here is how it went. Literary agent Brooks Sherman was alleged to have pulled some pretty shady practices and many of his clients decided to fire him. This is not an uncommon thing for writers to do; you don’t like your agent for whatever reason, you fire them. The same goes the other way.

The only problem was a report about the issue in Publishers Weekly alleging that Brooks Sherman had “plucked from obscurity” one of the most important US writers, Angie Thomas. Of course, the shit hit the fan and the story had to be redone but not without a lot of anger from everyone. An obscure white dude saving a highly accomplished Black woman will never pass in the world that we live in any more. You can read the edited work from Publishers Weekly here. (we can’t find the original text sorry).

Just when we were thinking that it was the end of publishing playing with the minds of Black people, Simon & Schuster decided to give their “pissing-the-Blacks-off” entry. I discovered their contribution when I was directed to a Tweet from newspaper columnist Mariga Thoithi that stated; “Today in caucasity from the mountain of caucus. Remember SAS soldier Chris Craighead from the Dusit attack? A book’s been published about him being the white hero we all needed who singlehandedly saved the day.”

Turns out there is a new book titled One Man In by British white man Chris Craighead was in the armed forces since he was 16 years old. The book has the following blurb;

The gripping and heroic firsthand account—like American Sniper mixed with a real-life version of Die Hard—by an off-duty special forces soldier who battled against a terrorist attack for twenty-two hours, and saved scores of American, Kenyan, and European lives.

After an otherwise ordinary morning of training with his firearms, British SAS soldier Chris Craighead was just beginning to relax in his new home in the bustling city of Nairobi. Then the phone rang.

It was a friend, a former British soldier. In the background, Chris heard gunfire. The friend gave the address of an upscale hotel and office complex in Nairobi’s affluent Westgate neighborhood. He said it was under attack.

Within minutes, Chris was in his pickup truck with his weapons case in the back seat, dodging vehicles and pedestrians as he raced to the scene. He attempted to reach anyone he could within the British and Kenyan governments to figure out what was going on. Nobody answered. He was on his own, and operating without orders.

For the next twenty-two hours, Chris relied on his nearly three decades of elite military training to win a deadly game of hide-and-seek with a unit of ethnic Somali terrorists who had already detonated one suicide bomb, and were intent on killing as many other people as possible. At first on his own, and later as the leader of a small, rag-tag group of soldiers and civilians, Chris moved through the complex where hundreds of innocent hotel staff, guests, and office workers were still trapped. After clearing buildings and shepherding people to safety, he located the terrorists. A battle of guns, grenades, and tactics ensued. Chris and his men made it out. The terrorists did not.

Told in white-knuckle, minute-by-minute detail, One Man In is an unforgettable story of heroism from a special forces soldier who happened to be in the right place at the right time—and decided to act.

This looks quite exciting no? A white man came to Kenya and like John McClane found himself at the wrong place with the right military skills and saved the day. Yipikaye motherfucker.

There are some basic things wrong with that whole narrative. One is that there is no neighbourhood called “Westgate” in Nairobi. The attack he was “rescuing” was at a hotel called Dusit, Westlands.  If such a basic thing as the name of the area of battle is wrong in the blurb, what other errors can we expect? Then there is him calling government officials to get information. This is laughable at best. Imagine a random foreigner calling the security forces of your country in an emergency and they decide, “yep, I will share information with this important person I have never heard off.” To those who say that we need to write our own narratives, I lead you to a whole section of the Standard newspapers dedicated to the attack. It has little to do with who writes the narrative anymore.

To cut a long story short, this publication by Simon and Schuster reminds many of that most recent of publishing atrocities with lies called In Congo’s Shadow by US American Louise Linton. You can read about that atrocity in this BBC report. The funny thing about the Linton book was that it was self-published on Amazon so that could be attributed to the writer just wanting to share their ignorance to the world. But Simon & Schuster… What’s your excuse?

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

3 replies on “One (White) Man ruins Black History Month.”

God I’m a white guy, and withought sounding patronising, I fight racism as much as I can. But this guy did save lives believe me. And information was shared with him as he was training Kenyans to do exactly what he did. Regards

When you listen to this guy talk, he will tell you the Kenyan soldiers left him completely alone and expected him to save them. It’s embarrassing. He sees himself as like the Knights Templar and is one of the most outwardly racist men I’ve met.

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