The impassioned story of one woman’s journey into activism.
Brown’s book is part memoir and part jeremiad against American whiteness. She begins by describing her youth in a largely white neighborhood of Toledo. After her parents’ divorce, she went on to discover black culture, and affirm her own identity, in an African-American Cleveland neighborhood and, especially, in a black church. Through high school and then into college, Brown learned more about black history and culture and became more involved with racial reconciliation efforts. She especially saw herself as a possible bridge between black and white cultures. Most of her work has been through churches and progressive Christian organizations, but faith plays only a minor role in this book. The focus of the narrative is on the author’s recognition of—and fight against—“America’s commitment to violent, abusive, exploitative, immoral white supremacy, which seeks the absolute control of Black bodies.” Brown pulls no punches as she lambasts white culture for being, even at its most liberal, myopic and self-serving. She argues that “white fragility” and “white guilt” are ways in which whites absolve themselves of inherent racism. Discussing whites who, after her presentations on racism, confess to her their own racist opinions and actions, she points out that she cannot “offer absolution….I am not a priest for the white soul.” Throughout the book, the author writes with raw emotion and candid self-reflection. “I have become very intimate with anger,” she writes. Brown’s work will resonate with other activists of color, though it provides little direction for others. The author is clear that racism and white supremacy are here to stay and that even attempts to educate and enlighten are rarely fruitful. “I underestimated the enduring power, the lethal imagination, the desire for blood of white supremacy,” she writes. And later: “hope for me has died one thousand deaths.”
A powerful and necessarily uncomfortable text lacking suggestions for a path forward.