Under-Our-SkinUnder Our Skin: Getting Real about Race – and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us, Benjamin Watson with Ken Petersen, Tyndale Momentum, 2015.

“What is under our skin, and under the skin problem in America, is a spiritual problem. Every time we point at someone else or an entire race—reducing them to a single story, diminishing them by stereotypes and assumptions—we overlook our own failure.” (Benjamin Watson)

After the deaths of young men like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the issue of race in America has resurfaced. Arguably, it has never gone away. Yet with new voices like Bree Newcomb and the Black Lives Matter movement, we are being reminded that racism has not been buried.

Among the many books that have come out since the events in Ferguson, Benjamin Watson’s Under Our Skin seeks to address these contentious issues from a spiritual perspective. What started out as a Facebook status, wrestling with the events in the aftermath of Brown’s death, Watson’s first book uses that Facebook post as a springboard to further explore his thoughts, feelings, and wrestlings with race in America.

At the heart of Watson’s argument is that the race problem in America begins with each of us. To understand it, we must understand our own racism. To overcome it, we must overcome the racism that resides within us. This book begs us to take a look at our own interior.

The NFL player shares very candidly his thoughts and feelings. He admits fear when being stopped by the police. By sharing his own personal stories and wrestlings with race, Waston invites the reader to see race outside of themselves, as well as inside themselves. This is an important element to this book. Racism resides within us, and to conquer it, we must deal with the racism that we each hold.

Though written from a faith perspective, this is not a theological book.  Watson does not make linear arguments for how people of faith should respond or what the “right” approach to racism is. This is an important distinction, especially as Watson pulls into the conversation thinkers and writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with whom he agrees and disagrees with.

Instead, he tells his own story and is honest about his own struggles with how to respond to racism.  As a white male, it was beneficial to hear Watson’s testimony as to how racism has affected him. Even as a successful NFL player, he still experiences racism. In telling his story, Watson invites conversation around an issue that is still so severing.

The only thing that concerns me is Watson’s approach may be used by some white, evangelical Christians to justify their own thoughts and feelings regarding Ferguson and other such events. In effect, it could be used to justify for their own unspoken, unlooked at racism. Instead of taking a serious look at their own racism, they may use Watson’s pondering to justify their racism.

Overall, however, I think that this is a solid book to be used as a tool to begin conversations on race.

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Thanks to Tyndale BlogNetwork for providing a preview copy for this review.