Some books require further thought/reflection/comment. As I complete books like this I will post reviews here to help inform and hopefully inspire further exploration. Thanks to the good folks at Tyndale House Publishers who send me new books to review!
Watson, Benjamin. Under Our Skin. Tyndale Momentum: USA, 2015.
Benjamin Watson is a graduate of the University of Georgia and a current professional football player. In the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, the most recent in a series of stories of police officers shooting and killing a seemingly unarmed black teenager, Watson recorded his reaction in a Facebook post that went viral overnight. Watson wrote:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
For the remainder of the post, click here.
The remainder of the post is worth reading. Watson’s book stands as an elaboration on this post. Unfortunately, not much is added to the substance of Watson’s much shorter Facebook message in his elaboration. While worth reading to further understand Watson’s perspective and how he came to arrive at such a nuanced understanding of the series of tragedies that divided much of our country last year, you get just as much substance from Watson’s Facebook post as you do his book.
The individual chapters of the book follow the outline of Watson’s Facebook post. Each chapter leans heavily on personal experience that inform Watson’s viewpoint. Through the book you learn about the Watson family’s experiences with racism that Benjamin himself faced while growing up and even somewhat at the University of Georgia. Hearing stories is always helpful for developing understanding of another’s perspective. In Watson’s case, his experiences create a layer of respect for his ability to persevere through the challenges he faced and remain level-headed and fair while being able to prophetically address injustice.
As mentioned previously, the book does little to advance the thought behind the immensely popular Facebook post. Those looking for an exposition on how to overcome racial injustices will be disappointed. Watson’s stated aim is to develop understanding that will hopefully lead to the eradication of injustice. Non-Christian readers will be sorely disappointed to learn that Watson, an evangelical Christian himself, is convinced that this sort of understanding can occur best if only in the context of a faith community centered on the person and work of Jesus.
A worthwhile read if you’re struggling to understand the perspective of the African American community in regards to police violence. Even though Watson addresses this specific concern from a faith-based perspective, his work can be extrapolated to individuals who do not share his perspective. If you’re looking for a substantive treatment of the problem of systemic racism and its ultimate solution, this is not the book for you.