I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, written by Austin Channing Brown, has really opened my eyes to what I’ve never recognized before- the weight whiteness carries in America and the injustices that come with that to those who are not. I’ve never had to recognize the majority of what this book consists of because I’m a part of the majority of society, but that doesn’t mean it’s not vital for me to know and act upon.
This book is important. This book has so much truth and validity.
I ask you, yes you, to take the time to get your hands on this book and read it with an open heart and an open mind.
Here are ten (of many) quotes that I’ve written down while reading this treasure:
“I offer this story in hopes that we will embody a community eager to name whiteness, celebrate Blackness, and, in a world still governed by systems of racial oppression, begin to see that there’s another way.”
After the divide continued between the students, a white student stood up and said, “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism. Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.” (58).
“Far from an imposing beast, I found that white supremacy is more like a poison. It seeps into your mind, drip by drip, until it makes you wonder if your perception of reality is true.”
Referring to the dangers of white fragility, “It ignores the personhood of people of color and instead makes the feelings of whiteness the most important thing… If Black people are dying in the street, we must consult with white feelings about naming the evils of police brutality. If white family members are being racist, we must take Grandpa’s feelings into account before we proclaim our objections to such speech.”(89)
“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 the 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.”(101)
“Whiteness uses Relational Defense to protect itself (i.e. “Ask ____. They know me and know I couldn’t be racist.”) White people desperately want to believe that the only the lonely, isolated “whites only “club members are racist. This is why the word racist offends “nice white people” so deeply. It challenges their self-identification as good people. Sadly, most white people are more worried about being called racist than about whether or not their actions are in fact racist or harmful. But the truth is, even the monsters-the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches- they had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts… The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”(104-105)
“Even our celebrations of the Civil Rights Movement are sanitized, it’s victories accentuated while the battles are white washed. We have not come to grips with the spitting in the shouting, the pulling in the tugging, the clubs, dogs, bombs and guns, the passion and vitriol with which the rights of Black Americans were fought against. We have not acknowledged the bloodshed that often preceded victory. We would rather focus on the beautiful words of Martin Luther King Jr. than on the terror he and protestors endured at marches, boycotts, and from behind jail bars.”(115)
“Whiteness has never needed much of an excuse for our deaths. Accused of looking at a white woman. Resisted arrest. Scared the officer. Thought he had a weapon. Looked suspicious. Looked like someone else. Had a criminal record (that the officer knew nothing about it). Doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, Blackness is always the true offense.” (146)
“A misconception is that reconciliation boils down to dialogue: a conference, a lecture, a moving sermon about diversity in heaven. But dialogue is productive toward reconciliation but only when it leads to action-when it inverts power in pursues justice for those who are most marginalized.”(169)
” I do not believe that I or my children or my grandchildren will live in an America that has achieved racial equality. I do not believe this is a problem that America will fix within any soon-coming generation. And so I stand in the legacy of all that Black Americans have already accomplished- in their resistance, their teachings, their voices in their faith- and I work toward a world unseen, currently unimaginable.”
So where is your hope, Austin?
“It is working in the dark, not knowing if anything I do will ever make a difference. It is speaking anyway, writing anyway, loving anyway… It is pushing back, even though my words will never be enough, powerful enough, weighty enough to change everything. It is knowing that God is God and I am not.”(181)