Book Review: I’m Still Here

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (this link will tell you more about Austin Channing Brown’s work and where to buy her book.

If you are a white feminist who attends a progressive mainline church this is the antiracist book you should be reading, because we (I definitely fit the description) see the way other white people are racist but often miss (intentionally or not) our own racism. White conservative republican evangelical christian men are not the only racists in our world and simply not being like them is not anti-racist. Because white supremacy has saturated every part of life, everyone is infected. Sometimes we make our own little check lists, “if I’m not doing this, or if I’m participating it that, or if I have a friend who is” then I have achieved anti-racism. But that’s now how it works. Being anti-racist is an ongoing process. Austin Channing Brown calls out “nice white people” behavior, “But I suspect that white people really don’t want to believe that we (people of color) know them too. They want to believe their proximity to people of color makes them immune. That if they smile at people of color, marry or adopt a person of color, we son’t sense the ugliness of racism buried in the psyche and ingrained in their heart. White people don’t want to believe that we sense the discomfort, hear the ignorance, notice the ways they process race, our bodies, our presence. We know them; we know they are racists.” (p. 105)

The book is written as a memoir so I don’t want to recount her story (you should read/listen her words) so I’ll hope to be vague but inspire you to read. There was a time when her feminist friends were not her allies because they didn’t see the way race factored into her life. I know that I would have behaved the way her white feminist friends did.

In the chapter “Justice, then reconciliation” she critiques the christian churches and I could see churches that I’ve been part of doing exactly what she describes. This was a mirror I needed to look into. As I write this, I am reminded that I purchased this book a year ago (you know when anti-racism was the cool new church program for progressive pastors to run) and since then my desire to do anti-racist work has been inconsistent. I feel a pull between holding myself accountable and being patient with myself. Perhaps you dear reader do too, so I recommend this book.

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