Austin Channing Brown writes and speaks about true inclusion and helps organizations practice it. In this sometimes painful, always thought-provoking book, she shares her own life journey toward understanding the effects of racism on both our culture and on her own life. And she reflects on the long road we have to travel in order to achieve real justice and reconciliation.
Brown’s poignant writing gives clear and honest expression to her own frustrations and her ultimate hope. I listened to much of the narrative as an audiobook, which Brown reads herself, and the power of her voice only added to the experience. Justice—which must come first, she says—and reconciliation seem impossible sometimes. But then her words give shape to what it could look like:
Reconciliation is the pursuit of the impossible—an upside-down world where those who are powerful have relinquished that power to the margins. It’s reimagining an entirely different way of being with one another. Reconciliation requires imagination. It requires looking beyond what is to what could be.
And further on:
Reconciliation is a ministry that belongs to Jesus. Jesus, who left the comfort of heaven and put on flesh, experiencing the beauty and brutality of being human . . . In this, we see why reconciliation can transform not just our hearts or our churches but one day the whole world.
White readers, if you’ve heard the words “white privilege” and wonder how you could possibly be considered privileged, you will find a distressing but open-hearted description here. And if you’ve read Waking Up White or similar books and you feel like you have a deep understanding of how systemic racism works, here is a chance to begin to understand how it feels. Especially when it is coming from Christian organizations.
Readers of color, I can’t represent you or guess how you might respond to the book, but I can say that Brown offers love, encouragement, and advice. The section entitled “How to Survive Racism in an Organization That Claims to Be Antiracist” offers support and extremely practical suggestions to anyone in that situation, and it is also important reading for white leadership of organizations that consider themselves to have achieved diversity.
This affecting and accessible book is already showing up on academic reading lists. But even if you’re long past school age, there is plenty to learn here. (Convergent Books)