“This is the shadow of hope. Knowing that we may never see the realization of our dreams, and yet still showing up.”
― Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Over the last month, I have read several books about the Black experience and the roots of systemic racism in the United States. I was recommended #ImStillHere by a friend, and for that, I am so grateful. I went in not knowing much about the book, assuming that the author was a male. Austin Channing Brown says this happens more often than not. I”m Still Here is about Brown’s experience living as a Black woman in America.
A powerful moment shared towards the beginning of the book is when Brown asks her mother why she was given the name Austin. Her mother’s response says so much about racial injustice today. She was given her name because people would assume she was a White male. Her parents knew down the road that she would be applying to colleges and going on job interviews. “We wanted to make sure you made it to the interview.” That statement struck me but did not surprise me given our country’s history of White male privilege. Brown also talks about several experiences of racism and discrimination in the workplace throughout her career. One of the experiences she shared was when a White co-worker touched her hair without permission. When Brown expressed her discomfort, her co-worker did not understand why she was upset. Brown was reported to a higher-up and told to be more understanding. (Unbelievable!) It is not lost on me that this occurs more often than I can ever imagine. Hearing about her experiences shows how far we still have to go to reach true racial and gender equality in the workforce.
“When an organization confuses diversity and inclusion with reconciliation, it becomes all about numbers.” I, as an Asian American, felt these words in my soul. People, communities, and cultures become just a number to save face. There is no real want or need for understanding or acceptance of someone, just an acknowledgment of being “different.” Brown, throughout the book, also brings up assimilation and how assimilating can very quickly turn into the erasure of Blackness: The eradication of one’s true self.
To me, as a non-Black person, one of the most poignant topics in I’m Still Here is the subject of White guilt. Brown talks of many instances of people coming to her with confessions of use of racist words and biases they have. She speaks of times in her life when she felt like she had to give them a comforting response. However, as time went on she would respond with, “what are you going to do differently?” This response makes those who are sharing their confessions take on accountability. She will not be the one to grant forgiveness, that is not the responsibility of the Black community. I think this is something we all need to do: look at our actions, and make actual changes to our beliefs.
YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. PERIOD. END OF STORY. There are not enough stars to give.
After I read I’m Still Here, I did some more research into Austin Channing Brown, who is also a public speaker and producer. I found so many interviews and presentations from her. I HIGHLY recommend you watch her TheoEd Talks. She talks about how the love for Black Americans is conditional in the eyes of society. Much like her book, this talk is thought-provoking and compelling. The link to “The Double SIded Pursuit of Racial Justice”
~Skyler of Always, Bookish Lovers