Book review: Badge of Color – Breaking the Silence
Memoirs by their very nature are telling and personal. Badge of Color, by Harlen Lambert is clearly no exception. He takes you back, way back to a time when pioneers of all sorts were forging new paths and breaking long-standing barriers that would forever change the course of other people’s lives, but not necessarily the one doing and writing about it. This is a must-read for those who may think they are the first to do something or that they may be the first to be ridiculed, mocked or worse.
Lambert’s approach, while not unique, takes you to the 30s, ’40s, 50’s and the tumultuous ’60s. While politicians may have thought they were going to fix civil rights once and for all, they were not in the trenches like Harlen was. There are those who serve their family and their country. There are those who serve their community and those who serve to represent the best of what our society has to offer. From cotton field to shoe shining, selling snow cones or finding any way to make a dime, like many young men of that era, Harlan did what he had to do to survive. From soldier to basketball to motorcycle escort and ultimately the police academy we see how our author and hero meet every challenge put before him. He may have been bullied, taken advantage of and yes met bias and prejudice along the way but that did not deter him, as a person, as a black, or eventually as a police officer.
Yes, he may have been from a minority group that had seen its share of abuse, ridicule, bias and even prejudice and beyond, but ask yourself, then, why add being a maligned minority of becoming a police officer? He was raised to accept challenges, so this became just one more. His peers tested him, many times maligned and ridiculed him to test his maturity, his commitment, his wanting to be a part of not being male or black but of wanting to be blue, a part of the infamous thin blue line that protects our communities, even when they may not want or demand it.
Get in the front seat with Harlen Lambert as he takes you for a ride-along, decade by decade by decade as a black growing up, getting out of the house, serving our country and eventually serving our community. He met every challenge placed in front of him, some he could overcome, and others he could not. That is what makes Badge of Color so special. After you read it, loan it to a friend but make sure you get it back and give it a place of prominence on your bookshelf.
J.C. De Ladurantey
retired law enforcement officer,
Making Your Memories radio host,
and audio narrator