B Brown, A.C. (2018). I’m still here: Black dignity in a world made for whiteness. Convergent.
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (2018) chronicles her journey of self-discovery as a Black girl in majority White schools and places of employment. Brown shares the emotional toll she bore in becoming a confident woman of faith while embracing her Blackness. Brown’s vulnerability about her trials comes with biting assessments of her experiences in predominately White schools. Brown shares instances where culturally intelligent educators positively contributed to her development, but they are few. UnifiEd is committed to provide educators with the tools necessary to mitigate the experience Brown had in her classrooms. While pointed, I’m Still Here is a helpful resource for Christian educators because Brown recounts challenges minority students encounter throughout their education in majority White schools. (Note: Brown attended private Catholic schools. However, while doctrinal commitments differ, the culture of private religious education has clear parallels).
Chapters one through five are particularly insightful for educators as Brown describes racialized moments that shaped her as a minority student throughout her education. Brown validates much of what other minority students have voiced on social media as of late: being Black at predominately White schools is a daunting task requiring mental dexterity and perseverance. From enduring racial slurs to supplementing the curriculum with Black historical figures, Brown shares how she navigated White spaces while embracing her ethnic identity.
Brown’s ongoing proximity to White culture affords her a unique perspective. She critiques the culture as an insider who had to recognize White culture as a means of her survival. She illuminates social habits within the culture that made it difficult for her to express herself fully as a Black girl. Relying on her faith, she credits the Black church tradition for being a constructive influence in her journey. The insights she gained from her exposure to White culture allow her to challenge White people to examine how they engage people of color and ultimately ask what they can do differently when their blind spots are revealed.
Brown’s reflections of her experiences in White contexts include pointed critiques of whiteness—a term she invokes early and often. Browns’ interactions with White people throughout her education and professional life are summed up as the way whiteness works. While she heavily critiques whiteness, Brown describes the term without defining it concretely. She uses White people and whiteness almost interchangeably. However, a distinction must be made to understand the purpose of her story. To understand her use of whiteness, it is important to keep in mind, 1) whiteness does not mean skin color, and 2) whiteness refers to a cultural normativity that seeks to meet the needs of a specific group. Referencing its ubiquity, she writes, “The ideology that whiteness is supreme, better, best, permeates the air we breathe—in our schools, in our offices, and in our country’s common life” (pp. 22-23). Brown clarifies that her story is not about “condemning White people but rejecting the assumption…that white is right…the epitome of being” (p. 23).
Educators who read Brown’s story encounter a voice that is present yet seldom heard at their school.
Becoming a helpful educator during a minority student’s journey throughout Christian education requires intentional growth in cultural intelligence.