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I'm Still Here

Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

By Austin Channing Brown
13-minute read
Audio available
I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

I’m Still Here (2018) is a memoir about racial justice in modern America. Racism is still all around us – even in Christian organizations that claim to champion diversity and understanding.

  • People looking to understand what it’s like to be Black in America
  • Christians eager to learn how to be truly progressive
  • Fans of powerful memoirs

Austin Channing Brown is a speaker, writer, and producer, on the topic of racial justice. She executive produced the web series The Next Question and her work has featured in outlets including On Being, the Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, and WNYC. I’m Still Here is her first book.

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I'm Still Here

Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

By Austin Channing Brown
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
Synopsis

I’m Still Here (2018) is a memoir about racial justice in modern America. Racism is still all around us – even in Christian organizations that claim to champion diversity and understanding.

Key idea 1 of 8

As she grew up, Austin Channing Brown realized that being Black made white people see her differently.

One afternoon years ago, when the author was seven, she made her way to the front desk in her very favorite place – the library. She had a big pile of books to check out.

But the librarian was confused. She peered at the library card, eyebrows raised. Was this really her card? The author realized the problem. “Yes,” she sighed, “my name is Austin.”

This wasn’t the first time Austin’s name had caused confusion. So she asked her parents why they’d called her that.

Her mother explained: they’d chosen a name they thought would help her get ahead in life. A name that, on paper, made it look like she was male and white.

Austin’s mind was blown. She already knew “Austin” was usually a man’s name – but she hadn’t realized it was a white man’s name. This was only the start of her dawning realization of the significance of race.

The key message here is: As she grew up, Austin Channing Brown realized that being Black made white people see her differently.

Austin’s family was Black, but the schools she attended were largely white. This was the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, the preferred approach to race issues was color blindness – the idea that people should simply pretend not to see racial differences at all.

But that approach didn’t always guarantee a comfortable atmosphere for Black students like Austin. At elementary school, she was called the N-word. Even in senior year, she overheard a white classmate blaming affirmative action for her failure to get into her first-choice college.

Other incidents gave her pause too – like when one well-liked teacher made a startling admission to her class. The teacher told her students she’d just realized that she’d been making a racist assumption. The teacher had thought that if two Black students sat next to each other, they would disrupt the class.

Austin saw the teacher’s good intentions in admitting this, but the revelation made her uncomfortable. She hadn’t realized that sort of stereotyping really existed. Suddenly, she became aware that all her school’s teachers might be silently judging her.

Ever since that library incident, Austin had known that her race shaped people’s perceptions of her. Now, she was starting to see how deep those perceptions ran. Racism went beyond name-calling and violence. It was everywhere.

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