Under Our Skin
Benjamin Watson is a former NFL tight end. He was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, and he played with the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, and the Baltimore Ravens before retiring after the end of the 2018 season. He is a Super Bowl champion, a devout Christian, and has five children with his wife, Kirsten.
The events in Ferguson, Missouri and the other race-based crimes occurring in the country influenced Watson to write a Facebook with his opinion and his reaction to everything. This post on Facebook was “liked” more than 850,000 times, and it received national media attention and coverage. Due to the popularity of this post, Watson decided to write this book expounding on his thoughts in the post.
The thing that I appreciated the most in this book is the fact that Benjamin Watson did not take one side. Instead, he looked at the issues from the perspective of African Americans, as well as the perspective of Caucasian Americans. Most people, including myself, get caught up in their opinions of anything that happens and don’t take the time to acknowledge that the opposing opinion can also have validity. Watson dives deep and even when he acknowledges that his opinion is different, he is still willing to be proven wrong (I’m not saying he is or isn’t, just that he is willing to be proven wrong). That’s something that most people wouldn’t do.
I really enjoyed his stories that he used to illustrate his points. From seeing where past relationships broke down due to how race was treated, to seeing how relationships survived/thrived because of mutual respect despite differing opinions, they were great. One story that stuck with me was the story of a mother of a child who was murdered in the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre. She was asked if she was willing to forgive, and she said that she was willing to forgive, but that the man needed to ask forgiveness too. That struck me, because too often I’ve just expected forgiveness since I know we should forgive everyone, instead of humbling myself and saying, “Will you forgive me?” It’s much harder to do that, but that’s why it’s so important.
Having grown up in Provo, Utah, a city that was recently ranked the 2nd least diverse city in the country, which neighbors Orem, Utah, a city that was the 3rd least diverse city, I did not experience much of what was discussed in the book. Utah is a wonderful place for many reasons, but the lack of diversity both economically, culturally, and religiously is something that has been hard for me because I strongly believe that variety is the spice of life. It also made it impossible for me to understand how those affected by racism felt, as I did not have many opportunities to talk to anybody who may have experienced racism.
This book made me dive deep into my cultural beliefs and made me see that some of the jokes we would tell growing up probably would have been offensive. I never have considered myself racist by any means but looking back I can most definitely see areas where I have stereotyped someone because of their race, and that is not acceptable in any form. I have some great friends who are African Americans, but sometimes when someone would challenge my lack of diversity I would tell them that I had black friends. Why did I feel like people would view me better if I had black friends? I didn’t think anything of it, and that’s the problem.
Without consciously doing it, I realize that at some points in my life I have said things that can be seen as racist. I always thought it was cool to have black friends, but I never gave a second thought when I had blonde friends or tall friends or girl friends. Why, then, did I consciously remember the times when I was friends with someone who was black, when it’s a way someone looks different, just like with hair color, height, and gender? I am ashamed that has been the case in the past and am more determined than ever to do whatever I can to reduce the racism that is currently running rampant in our country once again. To that end, if I have ever said or done anything that anybody I know has found racist I ask for your forgiveness.
After reading this book I find myself wanting to learn more about the injustices that all minorities have faced, especially African Americans, so I am going to make it a goal to read at least 2 more books this year about the issues that deal with racism. I also am going to more consciously monitor what I say, and what those around me say, with regards to race so I never have to feel ashamed with the way the I acted or didn’t act again.
I will recommend this book to anybody. I believe this is exactly the type of book our country needs to read right now. It shows us how to see each side of the issue, and how to do so with respect and dignity. If you have lived in any area like Utah that is not very diverse, I very highly recommend this book so that you can learn and see just a few examples of things that are still currently happening that you may have thought ended decades or longer ago. Benjamin Watson is an amazing storyteller, and I give Under Our Skin an 8/10.
Top 8 Quotes
“There is a unique power within the human heart to overcome hate and racism.”
“Why can’t more grab the opportunities that do exist, rather than gripe about opportunities that don’t?”
“The solution to the problem of race in America will be found only by ordinary people, “good” people, looking inside themselves, being honest about the assumptions and biases that have formed, and beginning to change what’s in their hearts.”
“We learn to distrust everything that doesn’t fit our version of reality.”
“This is about pulling yourself up. Are you willing to rise above?”
“The question is not, ‘Why don’t they do more for me?’ The question is, ‘Why don’t you do more for yourself?’”
“What’s it going to take for you to step up, step out, and step apart?”
“The racial divide is about the reality each side sees. Each side believes its view is the true reality, and we can’t understand why the other side doesn’t see the same thing and understand our reality.”
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