Writer John Safran is both a documentarian and a comedian. His book God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of A White Supremacist, A Black Hustler, A Murder, And How I Lost A Year In Mississippi takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to figuring out racism in America. The book is a long-winded investigation into the brutal murder of a white supremacist, Richard Barrett, by a black man, Vincent McGee, that may have been over sex. The Australian Jewish author was first introduced to the subject in the course of his TV series, Race Relations. As Safran documents his journey to solve the mystery of the racist man’s murder, he flavors the book with subtitles like “Under a Hunchback Tree Dripping Green Fur,” “Precious the Otter,” “The Clobbering Sun,” and “Because I’m a Moron.” It takes a determined reader to get through Safran’s saucy, sarcastic irreverence and the complicated web of characters while trying to make sense of Mississippi’s justice system and social order. It’s challenging to find a likable character to care about. But God’ll Cut You Down is a worthy read because probing old racial animosities raises current questions as the usage of the Confederate Flag rages on. Safran would have no tangled tale if we could all get along.
Dina Weinstein is a Richmond, Virginia-based writer.