Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I'm Still Here - Austin Channing Brown

I'm Still Here
Title: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: 5/5/2018
Pages: 192
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I was given an advance copy at the Why Christian conference.
Date Completed: 6/1/18

Summary: Brown reflects on life as a Black woman in modern America and how the undercurrent of racism persists in our country.

What I Thought: In my welcome bag for the Why Christian conference back in the spring, hiding among the general conference detritus, was a galley of this book. They gave a galley to every person at the conference. Talk about a marketing push. Being the voracious reader I am, I'm always thrilled to be handed a free book.

The next day, when Brown spoke at the conference, I went from being generically excited about a book to being very excited about this book. Brown spoke with grace and humor, but also with truth and a loving ferocity. I am sure it was not the most comfortable thing to speak about race to a room full of mostly white people in North Carolina, but she did and it was awesome. The book is an extension of that conversation. 

Brown is clear that her primary audience for this book is Black women. If you are not a Black woman, don't let that scare you away from reading it. This book is for everyone. It's not going to be the most comfortable read; Brown doesn't hesitate to call out racism, injustice, or the quotidian discrimination we often brush aside with a laugh or a shrug.  

Between current events and my intentional effort to read authors who do not look like me or experience the world in the way I do, I am slowly, slowly opening my eyes to my own prejudices. We all have them, yet we rarely confront them in ourselves. After all, doing so is hard and requires admitting not just imperfection but sinful hearts more vulnerable to hateful cultural messaging than we could have ever imagined. This book was an important part of that process for me. Honestly, I had never really imagined what it is like for a Black woman in my working world. I interact with them; my new office-mate is one. And, yet, I had never considered that their moment-by-moment existence in our professional lives was so different from mine. I should have; I see the ways I'm treated differently as a woman. Of course there is also a difference because of color; I've just been blind to it. 

Brown doesn't offer a specific pathway to correction. She recognizes that everyone's position and abilities will equip them to fight racist constructs and discrimination in different ways. One takeaway for me is to do a better job elevating Black voices, particularly within the professional context. I need to be a better listener and a champion of equality, even in the smallest of ways. 

In the midst of all the wisdom, this book is also a fun read. My sense from spending an hour listening to her at the conference is that Brown is a genuinely fun person to be around (not that her personality should matter, but it does shine through in the book). She's passionate and smart and I predict she will be an important voice in this cultural conversation for years to come. I'm not the only one to think so, either. Three of the most prominent quasi-evangelical female leaders had a great conversation about this book that you should totally check out. Glennon Doyle, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Jen Hatmaker have nothing but wonderful things to say about the book, which should say something to you. 

This is a quick read, though not always an easy one. You could get through it in a weekend, if not an afternoon. I exhort you to pick it up. Regardless of your race, gender, or social class, Brown has something here that you should hear. My guess is that after you read it, you'll be telling others the same. 

Quotes I Loved:
  • "When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it's easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label racist should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination."
  • "Sadly, most white people are more worried about being called racist than about whether or not their actions are in fact racist or harmful."
Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, I will

A Reduced Review: Powerful, thoughtful, honest, and raw. While not always the most comfortable read for a white reader, it's an important one. 

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