We Go Where They Go

23 January 2024

We Go Where They Go: The Story of Anti-Racist Action
by Shannon Clay, Lady, Kristin Schwartz, and Michael Staudenmaier
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$34.95 ISBN 9780889779082

I knew the moment I cracked open We Go Where They Go and saw that it was published by the University of Regina Press that I was in for a stimulating read. Every book I’ve read by the University of Regina Press has stuck with me even years later. They only publish deeply researched works that are powerful and interesting. Even if the subject matter doesn’t initially intrigue you, odds are that it will by the time you finish the book. 

Trying to explain what this book is about in a few short paragraphs won’t come close to touching on the depth of the work but let’s give it a go. In response to community invasions in the 1980s by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, people retaliated. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was formed. Thousands of members strong, the ARA fought against Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-abortion fundamentalists, and racist police. This is a truly fascinating account of people with a common goal uniting to fight back. As this took place in the era before so much was waged on the internet and social media, this fight was tackled in person and on the streets. The interviews with dozens of people who belonged to the ARA will take you back to those days, deep into the heart of the anti-racist movement. 

Of the ten chapters in this book, my favourite is the fourth one: The Canadian Connection. Canadians were linked to ARA from the early days and the story of their involvement is a gripping one.

The pictures in We Go Where They Go are as powerful as the words and add greatly to the telling of ARA’s history. Sure, the authors shared the stories of street fights, for example, but seeing photos of the physical altercations is chilling. 

The four coauthors mention in the acknowledgements that this book was a labor of love for them. Even if they hadn’t pointed it out, it is very clear from page one. The two page list of people they interviewed as well as the lengthy lists of resources and notes at the end of each chapter demonstrate the depths of work and research that went into We Go Where They Go. Anyone who picks up a copy of this timely book will be the beneficiary of this hardworking group of writers.

This book checks so many boxes. History buffs will devour this. Readers who want to learn more about anti-racism tactics and how the movement evolved will enjoy this book. So will those who like glimpsing a blueprint from the past to prepare for future movements. This is a compelling read from start to finish. 


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