I requested this one as an ebook from my library a few months ago, and when I finally got my copy I nearly ended up forgetting to read it! I’m so glad I didn’t, it’s not a long read but it packs an important, and hard, punch. I understand why I have seen many activists recommend this book as required reading for white people, especially white feminists. It most definitely is required reading.
Austin Channing Brown cuts to the chase from the first page - if you are like me and just added the book to your TBR without reading more than the title, then your first prejudicial thought will be pulled to the surface: Austin Channing Brown is a woman, not a man. (I had assumed she was a black man from the name and the subject matter and from those who recommended the book, but you know, I assumed). The author’s parents named her Austin for a very specific reason, so that people would assume and that she would therefore get an equal chance. If this doesn’t start a tunnel of questions and possibly even revelations in your mind, then the rest of the book will.
This will be a hard read for many, because hard truths are never easy to hear. White supremacy is a putrid soul-sucking poisonous legacy that this country refuses to get rid of, and instead of doing the work we should be doing, we white people keep pushing it off to others. Austin Channing Brown evokes her story of being a black woman in spaces that are historically, and still today, considered to be white spaces, and while her experience is a personal memoir, it’s an experience that every single black person in the US relates to. If we don’t listen and act when we read and hear these stories we are not doing the work we should be doing. I was going to add the word “react” but that is usually what happens, but reactions tend to be full of white guilt, innocence, centering, and admonishment. Those are better kept to our personal journals, because these reactions do more harm than good. Austin Channing Brown explains that a lot more eloquently than I am doing right now.
Just read it. And then, as the author states so clearly, ask yourself what you are going to do about it. If there is no action following words, then the words don’t count.
There is so much work to do. I’m buying a copy of this book as I need to reread and highlight entire passages. And my kids will need to read this when they are old enough.
“So I don’t accept confessions like these anymore. Nowadays, when someone confesses about their racist uncle or that time they said the n–word, I determine to offer a challenge toward transformation. For most confessions, this is as simple as asking, “So what are you going to do differently?” The question lifts the weight off my shoulders and forces the person to move forward, resisting the easy comfort of having spoken the confession. The person could, of course, dissolve into excuses, but at that point the weight of that decision belongs to them, not to me.” - Austin Channing Brown