Under Our Skin. getting real about race.

benjamin-watsons-book-under-our-skinIn a book of just 204 short pages, Benjamin Watson expresses his thoughts and feelings and ideas in such an honest and thought provoking manner. Eloquent yet very forward, he takes us inside himself as a man, as a Black (African American) man and as a man of God. This book is not preachy but an honest dialogue of a man’s heart. Whether or not your beliefs are the same as his, you will come away on page 204 different than you were on page 1.

He examines racism and himself from the following -anger, introspectiveness, embarrassment, frustration, fearfulness and confusion, sadness and sympathy, offense, hopelessness, encouragement and empowerment. He draws us in to help us examine ourselves and to be brutally honest and open. I actually love the way he thinks about his own feelings, thoughts and actions and then frames them in a biblical perspective before communicating outwardly. As you progress through the book, you can feel the raw honesty of acknowledging where he fits in the situation instead of flinging blames and accusations. He presents the root -the heart of mankind that only God can change.

Watson does not allow us to sit back and point a presumptive finger at racism. He makes us take that hard look of examining ourselves against the issue of racism and admit that it is inside each of us.  If racism was just ‘a’ person or even ‘a group’ of people we could contain it. But it is much larger than that. This is a human kind issue.

Besides recognizing racism as evil, he expresses the need the conversation -dialogue. Too often we presume things to be one way when they were actually meant or viewed another way. We should seek the common good instead of the small things that are so divisive and hurtful. If we stay closed-minded and never dialogue among each other we allow those differences to stagnate our worldview. Those experiences we have never get shared until something on the racial spectrum happens and then we simply blow in an unhealthy way. It is gravely important that whites and blacks try to dialogue and understand the other side. But, Watson, candidly recognized that racism will not go away completely but we can make it better.

From each book I read, I take away something or garner a favorite quote. I have expressed my views and concerns with many and they mostly parallel Watson’s. But here is where he goes a step further than I …

“And you and I are both guilty,

We all have malice deep down.

We all harbor wrong attitudes towards others.

At its core, the issue is not about race. It’s about the human heart.

… Nothing will change … unless …

Unless God changes our hearts and minds.

God, hear our prayer … (p. 17).

Watson makes it personal for me. He uses the pronouns you and I, whereas I always used ‘they’. Sad but true. It took longer to read this book than I expected because it caused me to be reflective throughout the chapters. And that is just the thing that makes for a good non-fiction book.

Thank you Mr. Watson

Born A Crime 

In my quest to read 25 nonfiction books in 2017, I have started with Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. This was a really good book to start my quest on. When I choose a book to read, I look for one that will give me some insight into a worldview that is different from what I currently understand. I love being able to carry away nuggets and/or quotes from the book but, my favorite is to be absorbed into new people, new cultures and new ideas. Noah’s book gives some historical accounts of Apartheid and his own personal experiences. This compilation of stories made me laugh as well as made me ponder. I also drew some insight into the South African culture and it’s different races (I’m sure this was only the tip of a very large iceberg). The stories are told in such a vivid manner that they pull you in and take you to a very faraway place that is also very near and very real.

I knew the concept of apartheid but I did not know how expansive the ramifications were. Told in humor yet realism, you get a real picture of the true damage to lives and to mind. I often see or interact with persons in wonder what their journey really is. I wonder also, how did they get to the very point that we meet today. This young man’s journey often had him pinned against the odds of … well, everything -and it would have been difficult at best to overcome. But, he was blessed to have something dear and precious to help shine the light on a different path for him to follow  -his mother. Patricia, Noah’s mother, and her family provided an infrastructure that would allow him to grow and be protected and yet to take chances in life. I sense that she is a woman to whom I would have relished the opportunity to meet. Her strength, resiliency and stubbornness is amazing in the feat of her environment. She has a no nonsense Jesus, the whole Jesus and nothing but Jesus approach to life and she holds true to what she believes.

Now, the quote that I take away from this book, “you will often hear it said, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. What you don’t say is, and it would be nice if you gave him a fishing pole”. Teaching/learning a skill is one thing. Ensuring the tools for success is another. A woodworker can learn the skilled art of making beautiful furniture and cabinets but without the tools to cut, carve, chisel, smooth, and blend, -all the apprentice has is an unused skill.

The title of this book comes clear early on. A human born of one black parent and one white parent is somehow a crime. So now this child has to navigate a world where he is not accepted fully by black, white, or colored. I often ponder why must we put each other in boxes? When we are born we must choose a box -either white, black, African-American, Latino, Asian, Chinese etc. being human is simply not enough.

This book is full of insight through stories that help us gain knowledge and understanding of another’s world through the experiences told by another brilliant human.

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