THE PLOT: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing-Brown is part-memoir, part-essay about racism in the U.S.A. It details Austin’s encounters with racism while growing up and reflects on systemic racism and attempts at racial justice. Grounded in Austin’s Christianity, the book is infused with her attempts to reconcile racism in the Church by connecting her religion to her racial reality.
RATING: I find it extremely difficult to overtly rate someone’s personal experiences but I’ve given this three and a half stars. I feel this is a good book, which details the author’s middle-class experiences of racism and personal journey to realise how racism infiltrates all layers and systems in society. Through her eye-opening experiences at University and subsequent work to teach diversity seminars, Channing-Brown’s discovery of what it means to love Blackness provides a good forum for reflection on how racism manifests itself.
GOOD BITS: I preferred the first half of this book, which included a lot of the author’s personal experiences. This chimes with my personal love of reading novels/stories/narratives as it allowed me to engage with Austin’s world. Her experiences at a predominantly white school and university particularly resonated with me, as she learns that the absence of overt racial conflict does not mean the absence of racism.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: As someone who isn’t overly religious, I respect how Austin’s Christianity is intrinsically weaved into the book and it was interesting to hear from a different perspective to my own. However, the emphasis on Christianity alienated me a little bit as it felt like a very Americanized version of what it means to be part of the Church. In particular, the last few chapters felt grounded in Austin’s beliefs, whereas I would’ve benefitted from a deeper dive into the economics of slavery and mass incarceration, and how the economic legacy perpetuates racist structures as a fundamental feature of capitalist America today.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to Christians of all races and denominations, as it provides a good rumination on the dichotomy of ‘White Jesus’. It’s also a good book for those wanting to learn more about racism and the observations about predominantly White schools, universities and workplaces struck a chord. But, if I’m truly honest, I wouldn’t put this book at the top of your anti-racist reading list. It definitely contributes to the debate and adds a voice from a religious perspective, but didn’t add much new knowledge or areas of thought for me personally.