Undeterred; KKK Target, KKK Witness
by Tracey Brame
NB Bookshelf

"It would be years before I knew he had raped me, brutally raped me, and that the skin strewn on the wall and my clothes hailed from the inside lining of my vagina, which had been purposefully ripped out and left to rot by the man who swore he wanted to marry me."

We like to believe that in the face of danger, we would put up a fight. The truth is that we can't plan an instinctive response, and sometimes the brain responds by simply shutting down. This is what happened to Tracey Brame. Time after time when faced with violence, verbal and physical threats on her life, and general adversity, Brame's mind slipped into shock and blocked out any offensive stimuli. This response, she would later learn, is a typical symptom of PTSD brought on by several physical, mental, and sexual attacks. Until she began to recall her trauma, Brame remained in a numb state, impervious and oblivious to the dangers around her. Undeterred: KKK Target, KKK Witness is Brame's accounts of her life, from being sexually assaulted at the hands of her boyfriend to receiving death threats and attempts on her life from the KKK. Her frank account of people's treatment of her highlights some glaring issues in society, many of which are still present today.

Through both her strong writing style and her personal account of herself, Brame comes off as a highly intelligent, well-educated, and rational person. It is difficult to imagine this strong-willed young black woman victimized and left so helpless—partially through the fault of her own mind. Brame bares her entire soul on the pages of her book, shifting between a chronological account of her life and flashbacks to her traumatic experiences. The juxtaposition of a shocked naive mind with all the terrible things that are done and said to her makes the account all the more powerful and disturbing. When confronted with a traumatizing scenario like a violent rape, the human mind is programmed to block it out. Thanks to this defense mechanism, Brame spends much of her life in a dream-like state, her brain asleep to anything that might remind her of her assailants or her many close encounters with the Ku Klux Klan.

Despite not knowing it at the time, Brame came too close to some powerful individuals within the KKK in Bloomington, Indiana where she worked as a pharmaceutical rep. She describes some of the tactics used by the hateful organization to intimidate, coerce, and even "erase" certain individuals. In a way, her PTSD shields her, by protecting her from being terrified and baffling those doing the terrorizing. The KKK is painted nearly like a mafia, operating as a shadowy organization with members holding important positions like doctors. The book is by no means an expose on the organization; however, it does highlight some of the terrifying potential consequences of crossing any member of the organization.

Peppered throughout her story, Brame also inserts information about PTSD and how it might affect people who are afflicted by it. Thanks to her own haze, she also manages to present a story about hate victims without having to pass judgement herself. As a protagonist, Brame is clueless and numb to any dangers; as the reader you will become enraged and frightened on her behalf. She doesn't need to point out that her ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are the cause of her poor treatment. It becomes self-evident through her account. Brame's life is split into easy-to-digest chunks, lest we get swallowed up in the difficult and violent reality of the author's PTSD. And with each section we learn a bit more about the author, the realities of living with PTSD, and the hatred that lurks in society, even today.

This is not an easy read. Many of those who antagonize Brame are driven by the hunger for control and power. Brame's writing begins an important conversation, one which we need to be having: oppression is everywhere; victims are everywhere. Sometimes even the strongest of people fall prey to situations they can't control. Brame's words remind us of a simple fact: Nobody deserves this kind of treatment.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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