With New Book, Austin Channing Brown Says Racial Reconciliation in the Church is ‘Not Super Complicated’

"I'm Still Here," by Austin Channing Brown
“I’m Still Here,” by Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown, a writer and speaker focused on diversity, black womanhood, and faith, says resolving the racial divides in the church is “not super complicated.” Her new book is I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.

She spoke to Religion News Service about her desire for black and white Christians to imagine “another way” of inclusive ministry.

You know, it’s not super complicated. On a small scale, I think (it looks like) diverse curriculum, people of color in actual leadership positions with leadership authority, influence beyond what I can contribute monetarily, making brave decisions in the face of those who hold the pennies. I really think sometimes there’s a desire to make it more complicated than it is. All we really need is a little bit of courage.

That’s why I didn’t include a “here’s what white people can do.” The whole book is supposed to be about what you can do. The whole book is, you can be like this teacher or you could be like this teacher. It’s supposed to inspire changes that you could make — what are the changes you can make right where you are? I don’t want to make this so big and so unattainable. I want to talk about the small things that impact that one person.

My hope would be for the church to be inspired to take the next step, whatever the next step is, to not be comfortable, to not think we’ve arrived, to think, “What’s the next step? What’s the next brave thing to do?” And to choose at least one systemic issue to really be passionate about.

Brown’s book, I’m Still Here, releases on May 15th. Below is the publisher description:

From a powerful new voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric–from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness–if we let it–can save us all.

–Joshua James