The TL:DR on this is: get this book immediately and read it in a night- two at the most- and then pass it on, donate a copy to your local library and your church library, take it to the high school library, getyour book group to read it, and ponder it in your heart that, like Mary, it may cause you to bear the word of God to the world.
A couple weeks ago, many of my friends were effusive with excitement about a book that was coming out and I wanted to get on the train immediately. I one-clicked I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown right away. Regrettably, I didn’t get to it as quickly as I wanted. I opened it this week, on vacation, to get ready for today’s review. And I was blown away.
What Waking Up White and Between the World and Me were for their respective communities and for those invited to eavesdrop, I’m Still Here needs to be for white communities who need to know what to do next, who have arrived at a crossroads and think the work is done, for the person who has just realized that “woke” is lifetime work, not one solitary epiphany.
I believe I am too white to understand what Brown’s writing means in her community. Her details of what Black America middle-class life is like create a picture of a life that has material needs met, but a walking wound of frustration, searches for solidarity, and micro and macroaggressions. Brown is a non-profit professional, a church professional, a business woman. Though, when she writes of a day in the life, as it were, the reader can perceive the sheer exhaustion that comes not just from people who are overtly racist, but from those whose racism comes from inappropriate touching, faux innocent questions, refusal to engage in self examination, and a seeking of absolution for all sins from a person who is not charged with absolving them.
White people who expect me to be white have not yet realized that their cultural way of being is not in fact the result of goodness, rightness, or God’s blessing. Pushing back, resisting the lie, is hella work.
The role of a bridge builder sounds appealing until it becomes clear how often that bridge is your broken back.
White ness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the openheartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.
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.
But I am not a priest for the white soul.
Brown writes and writes, bleeding onto the page her experience, her story, her life, and her courage. The most powerful part of the book is at the very end, wherein Brown speaks about hope. This writing is some of the most truth to power I have ever read. It was simultaneously heart-breaking and loin-girding.
Get this book. Read it. Read it again. Share it. Learn from it. And, where this applies to you, do better.
Thank you, Austin Channing Brown, for your work, your persistance, and your keeping on. In more than one way, I am in your debt.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.
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