Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Audiobook Review: I am Still Here

 Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Written and Read by Austin Channing Brown

Duration: 3 hours 54 minutes

From a leading voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up black, Christian, and female that exposes how white America’s love affair with “diversity” so often falls short of its ideals.

“Austin Channing Brown introduces herself as a master memoirist. This book will break open hearts and minds.” (Glennon Doyle, number one New York Times best-selling author of Untamed)

Austin Channing Brown's first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, "I had to learn what it means to love blackness," a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America's racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America's social fabric - from black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations. For listeners who have engaged with America's legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I'm Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the listener to confront apathy, recognize God's ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness - if we let it - can save us all.

My Thoughts: This was certainly a thought provoking book. I saw this book circulated a lot the past couple of years and heard great things about it. I did not know much of it other than the author discussed the topic of racial justice, so I read it it with an open mind. What was presented in the few pages was powerful; so powerful that I cannot formulate the words to express my thoughts. Here goes...

Austin Channing Brown talked about what it was like to be a person of color in a white world. Everything around us (laws, rules, customs) has been built with the idea of white centricity. If you were a person of color, you had to conform in order to be "accepted" in this white world. Austin's description on how she had to watch her words and her tone of voice when she interacted with white people at work had to be constantly self-regulated so as not to offend her white coworkers. If a white person felt "uncomfortable," it was expected that it was Austin's fault and she had to fix it. I felt frustrated for her and annoyed with the "white fragility" that she presented. Then I started thinking to myself, wait, I do that. As a Mexican, I too watch how I act and speak when I'm around white people. I try to act white when I'm around white areas so I don't raise up the alarm that I'm a person of color. Most of the time it works because of my light skin, but if I'm not careful, my accent comes out. When it does, I get raised eyebrows. 

Here's a quote that stood out:

“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. The problem with this framework—besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people—is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful. I am expected to come closer to the racists. Be nicer to them. Coddle them.”

Powerful stuff, huh?

There are many good intended people out there, no matter of the skin tone, but we all have some sort of racism within us. Just because we act "nice" to certain people, does not mean that we are free of fault. We can't help it when the system that we grew up in has instilled in us to believe in negative stereotypes. However, we all need to acknowledge this so that we can begin to learn and grow to become better people. 

In all, this was a pretty good audiobook. I enjoyed listening to Austin Channing Brown herself because she is a wonderful speaker. This would have been a perfect book, but I was not expecting the Christian side of it. When Austin spoke of her Christian thoughts, I found myself losing interest. There was nothing wrong with this; religious writing is not my cup of tea. I rate this:

1 comment:

  1. I still have to post my review of this one also. I really found a lot of value and strength in this book and was one of the favorites that I read this summer.