Sunday, June 21, 2020

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

I'm not usually one to immediately jump on the bandwagon and read a celebrity book club selection right out of the gate. However, when I saw this memoir was picked for Reese Witherspoon's book club, I thought I'd read an excerpt. I was hooked from those few paragraphs, and immediately bought the ebook for my Nook. I knew, based on bestseller lists, and my library's holdings, that any book I wanted to read regarding racial issues would be hard to come by because of demand. 

I'm still processing all that Austin had to say. I'm still thinking about all the things I say, do, and think that have a basis in racist thinking that goes so deep I'm not even aware of it. That is comes from simply being born and growing up white in middle-class Midwest America in the 1970's and 1980's. And that, I believe, is what white people struggle with-those people who want change, that is. I struggle to comprehend the enormity of the road we have ahead of us, and the road that has lead us here, today. 

Austin says many things that hit home. The struggle of just going to work every day as the only black person on a staff that promotes diversity but does anything but. That she has to keep a file on her computer of all the good emails she gets, to have her armor ready when she's called out for her "attitude" that makes others uncomfortable--when it's the others who should be called out. The worry about bringing her son into the world, and how she and her husband will explain the world to him while also bringing him up with joy and love for who he is. 

This was a powerful book to read, and I would definitely ask others to read it, as well. I am thinking, taking it all in, and yes, struggling a bit with some hard truths. And that's okay. I should be looking within and asking myself some hard questions.

While the whole memoir was an important and impactful read, I will always think of the last few pages, when Austin discusses hope. Knowing that you're in the middle of a long road, where you can't see the end. You have to keep the hope up, you have to keep fighting, even knowing you may not see the changes happen in your lifetime. You keep the fight moving for those who come after. 

This book is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

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