Austin Channing Brown – I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to educate myself on topics that are out of my comfort zone. It’s become abundantly clear this year through many things that have happened that it’s not enough not to be racist, but you need to be actively anti-racist too.

And the only way I can think of being able to do that is to educate myself more around the problems that I could not even dream of.

This book was a very fast-paced read, the author’s voice being very compelling and urging you to keep reading and turning the pages. I didn’t realise before I started that the author is also from a church-background, which was an extra interesting dimension to me (although I have very little knowledge of churches in America).

Filled with personal stories, I felt my heart breaking many times at the things that she (and other black families like hers) have to think about on a daily basis that I would never have considered.

Like the time she got told off for touching things on a shelf in a shop, then stuffed her hands in her pockets so she couldn’t do it again. Then her dad had to explain to her that she cannot touch something in a shop and then put her hands in her pockets or someone might notice and assume she was stealing something.

Even the fact that her parents named her Austin so that when she applied for jobs, people might assume she was a white man and that would help her get to an interview. I can’t imagine having to even consider being excluded from a job because of my name.

When thinking about being anti-racist, it’s not just about not slinging insults or judging people, but also thinking about the things we say that feel innocuous, but actually cling to the belief that we are all the same and are based around white culture. The author says:

“For example, when teachers wanted to drive home the point that we should do something daily, they often likened it to how you wash your hair every morning. It never occured to them that none of the Black girls in the class did this”.

This made me think of all the times I may have done something like this inadvertently during youth groups etc, and I definitely need to commit going forward to being more careful with how I speak.

“When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it’s easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination.”

The author talks about reconciliation and now it’s not just about people reaffirming their own goodness.

“These folks want a pat on the back simply for arriving at the conclusion that having people of colour around is good. But reconciliation is not about white feelings. It’s about diverting power and attention to the oppressed, toward the powerless. It’s not enough to dabble at diversity and inclusion while leaving the existing authority structure in place. Reconciliation demands more.

And from a biblical perspective:

“Reconciliation is what Jesus does. When sin and brokenness and evil tore us from God, it was Jesus who reconciled us, whose body imagined a different relationship, who took upon himself the cross and became peace.”

I would highly recommend this book, it’s not too long and I read it in two sittings, but it opened my eyes to a world that I had no knowledge of, and want to learn more from.

My rating: 5Average rating: 4.38
185 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in Hardbackon 19th-20th October 2020

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