Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 208 pages
Published: May 2018

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness was recommended to me by the Likewise app that takes personal preferences and serves up books, movies and more that might fit one's tastes. When I read Austin Channing Brown's excerpt on the app about how she got her name, it totally resonated with me. My dad's name is Melvin, and as the first born, my mom wanted my name to mirror his, but Melvina was totally off the table. At the time, my aunt - my mom's sister, was working at a daycare and she off-handedly said to my pregnant mom, "If the baby is a girl, you should name her Melissa. All the Melissa's at my daycare are white." I guess I get my creative side from my mom because she decided the name would be more special with a Y instead of an I. So, that's how I got MELyssa, "Mel" for Melvin and "yssa" to help position me for a bit of an easier life.

Similarly, Channing got her name because her parents knew people would see her name in print and incorrectly assume she was a white male. I'm not sure if this is part of the code switching we, as people of color, do to put ourselves in a more favorable position. But I can certainly see the necessity for it and why my family and Austin's parents went that route. This is just one nugget the author shares about her life growing up Black in a largely white and male dominated world. Her book was published a couple of years ago, it is very relevant right now. In it she shares several tales of growing up in a society where she was muted and had to conform to meet societal expectations to get ahead.

Channing's vignettes are not particularly new. They are different variations of the same song that many Black people face. So, why do we need more books like this? Because everyone has a right to tell their story, and we need to keep learning so we can all do better. This book is not that long, easily digestible, and offers a powerful perspective.

"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time."
- James Baldwin

"Perfection is demanded of Blackness before mercy or grace or justice can even be considered."
- Austin Channing Brown

"For only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way."
- Austin Channing Brown

"We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity."
- Austin Channing Brown

Recommendation: If you're seeking to understand the Black experience from a woman's perspective, this is a good selection to add to your TBR list. It is not THE only resource, but as a Black Christian woman working in corporate America, I found it very relatable and her experiences very much similar to my own. As Channing so eloquently said in her book, "Black is not a monolithic. Black is expansive." We do not all think and act alike, but just like any group, some generalizations can be drawn from this little green book.

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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