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Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us. Paperback – October 1, 2016
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This is a message every one of us needs to hear, and we’re listening to what Benjamin Watson has to say. Under Our Skin is unflinchingly honest, strong, and authentic. You won’t be able to put it down, and it will surprise, challenge, and inspire you in ways you never expected. (Holly Robinson Peete, Actress, author, philanthropist; Rodney Peete, Former NFL quarterback, author, entrepreneur)
Benjamin Watson is an important African American voices of balance and sanity in a world of racial chaos and confusion. He has used his platform as an NFL player to speak God’s perspective on race. In this work, Ben will encourage and challenge you to think rightly and righteously about addressing the sin that is destroying our nation. (Dr. Tony Evans, Senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and president of The Urban Alternative)
I am honored to recommend my friend Benjamin Watson’sfirst book, Under Our Skin. Ben has grabbed the attention of our nation with insightful writings on many of the issues that divide us. God has expanded Ben’s reach way beyond the football field. I believe Ben is a voice for our time. In Under Our Skin, you will soon see why his wisdom on the issue of race in our nation is so needed. (Chris Tomlin, Musician, songwriter)
Benjamin Watson is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful men I have ever met,inside or outside of football. When he examines a topic, it is never from theperspective of societal norms or cultural traditions. His observations arealways based on sound, biblical principles. I know you will benefit from hisinsights into race and religion in the United States today. (Tony Dungy, Super Bowl winning head coach and New York Times bestselling author)
In his first book, Under Our Skin, Benjamin Watson does a superb job of exposing the many racial stereotypes that exist on all sides, and he helps people to understand that we are all human beings created by God and intended for great things. If we invest energy in understanding others, we will improve our own lives. (Benjamin S. Carson Sr., MD, Retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate)
Packed with germane insights, this eye-opening book challengescurrent trends in American race relations, providing an important context forconversations about finding roads to racial unity. Read this book and be betterprepared to narrow the gap between our national creeds and deeds. (Barry C. Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate)
Not many people can speak so honestly and eloquently aboutsuch a tough issue. Benjamin Watson shows great perspective on every side andchallenges us all to embrace a higher moral and spiritual purpose. (Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints)
If you thought you were moved by Benjamin’s words in the wake of Ferguson, wait until you read this book. It is intensely personal, provoking real race discussions based on his own life and the issues still plaguing this nation. More importantly, though, my friend Benjamin leaves us with a sense of hope. (Brooke Baldwin, Anchor, CNN)
A must-read for anyone who is frustrated by the racial strife and problems in our world―and ready to become part of the solution. Stop everything you’re doing and read what Benjamin Watson has to say. (Mark Richt, Head football coach, University of Georgia)
Benjamin Watson has been an outspoken advocate for racial unity based solely on the fact that Jesus Christ died for all people. Jesus came to this earth to cover the sin of mankind with His precious blood and to wipe out the sins of disobedience, immorality, and racial conflict. Under the skin of every human being beats a heart that has the potential to love and serve the Lord and Master of the soul made alive by the very breath of God. Thank you, Benjamin, for pointing people toward the One who came and dwelt among us, who died to save us, and who lives to prove His everlasting salvation to all who will come to Him. (Franklin Graham, President and CEO, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse)
From the Back Cover
For so many people, the racial divide is an argument, a political position, a debate on TV.
But keeping our distance isn’t working.
It’s not an option anymore. This is about you and me. It’s about our neighbors, our children, and our world.
In this challenging look at race, bias, and justice, Benjamin Watson, tight end for the New Orleans Saints and social-media commentator, speaks from his deepest heart to articulate what many of us think and feel. Part memoir and part social commentary, Under Our Skin offers a look at both sides of the race debate and appeals to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing. It’s a bold new path for us to follow as we come together to talk about the truths, myths, and realities of racial conflict.
Change starts here.
From the flap:
Let’s admit it. We all feel angry, offended, sad, hopeless, confused. But this is also true: We can be encouraged.
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, a writer and speaker, and a widely read and followed commentator on social media.
He attended Duke University as a freshman and transferred to the University of Georgia, where he majored in finance. After an all-SEC senior campaign, he was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He won a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season and appeared in another Super Bowl following the 2007 season. After a three-year stint with the Cleveland Browns―including the 2010 season in which he led the Browns in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns―Watson signed with the Saints in 2013.
Watson serves on the executive committee of the NFL Players Association and is the founder of the nonprofit One More foundation along with his wife, Kirsten. They live in New Orleans with their five children.
Ken Petersen is a veteran of book publishing, having worked for Tyndale House Publishers and Random House/Crown (WaterBrook Multnomah). He has written numerous books and lives with his wife, Rita, in Colorado Springs.
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More than half of our young people today find themselves trying to navigate their life without fathers. We need fathers like you to standup and lead this next generation into the healing that government and politicians cant solve. We don't need more programs, we need healing at the core of our hearts, where superiority comes from the color of our skin. You are one of those fathers, and I appreciate the humility that you model throughout this book that opens every reader to an invitation to seeing people of other colors through God's eyes. To use your words through you, "It is not a skin problem, but a sin problem.
I encourage every reader of this post to buy this book for their children, and pass it on to every high school and college age person who is now facing the anger of the fatherless mob, not knowing what to do. I love your conclusion, It starts with you.... Thank you Benjamin, time to change the world! Praying for you Ed Tandy McGlasson
The same can be said of recent examples of young black men who have died tragically: Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Eric Gardner. Benjamin writes about the perspective black men and women grow up with toward the police: one that doesn't trust that they will be treated fairly, and a perception that has been proven accurate by their experiences.
He talks about the divide between the races, and that for instance, white people don't understand what it's like to be targeted by the police, citing the example of driving his wife to the hospital for the birth of their child. Why were they pulled over? Why didn't the officer give a reason why he had pulled them over once he knew all was in order with them, and that they didn't violate any laws (or, why does the officer not offer well wishes on the birth of their child)? Would the officer have treated them differently or told them why he stopped them if Benjamin had been white, even (as Benjamin dreamed) leading them onwards to the hospital as they do in the movies?
As a white male, I believe Benjamin did me a great service in this book. Just as the jury in the movie "A Time to Kill" I was able to close my eyes, as he led me through a story to bring me into the shoes of the "other side" and see it as my own. If this book, and others like it, could just get us to this point, of being able to see the other side, it would serve all of us. I long that one day our children would play together, not seeing any difference in color, same as that time before prejudices set in. I remember in my own youth, when I was in elementary school one of my best friends was a black girl, and I was teased that she was my girlfriend (with implication that it was wrong because of her color, that she was "other"). This was brought back to my memory after reading Benjamin's story about when his innocence was taken (over a white girl he liked). My innocence was also largely taken at that moment. I was made aware of prejudice for the first time.
I am grateful for Benjamin Watson and this book. It has blessed me in countless ways, and is a book I will be recommending highly to all my friends, no matter the color of their skin or the condition of their heart. This is a message we so severaly need in our nation. Thank you, Mr. Watson!
Watson received significant amounts of both praise and criticism for his words. It came as no surprise to me that he was soon invited to switch genres and to turn his brief article into a full-length book. The result is Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us.
Let me tell you why I found his book especially helpful. The farther I am from a situation, the more difficult it is to understand it. I can easily enough put myself in the shoes of someone who is very much like me. I have a natural advantage when it comes to understanding situations involving middle-class Caucasian Canadian Christian men. But the farther afield I go, the more difficult it becomes to understand and empathize with others. If there is any hope of even beginning to understand something as far from my experience as America’s struggle with race, I need to listen (or read, as the case may be)—I need to listen, consider, and believe the experiences of trusted people.
Watson is just that kind of trustworthy voice. In Under Our Skin he explains how and why the African-American experience is unique, necessarily distinct from the white experience. Reading his book was a very helpful exercise because it showed why two people can live in the same country, same state, same city, and even same neighborhood but have very different experiences because of their race. “Black people and white people see the world through completely different lenses. 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.” We all believe that we see the world as it really is, yet we see only our perspective. This is why it is so important to do what we can to see it from alternate perspectives as well. The truth undoubtedly lies somewhere between.
Of particular help was his explanation of the differing views of authority and especially police authority. “I believe that white people look at law enforcement and assume it is good, based on their experiences and interactions with the police. And I believe that black people look at law enforcement and assume—based on patterns and history and experience—that someone is out to get them. I believe both are true.” He goes on, “White people have no idea of the fear that black people feel toward the police. I cannot say that strongly enough, loudly enough, or forcefully enough. I believe it is a huge point of division between black people and white people. Black people have little expectation of being treated fairly by police in any situation. We have a high expectation of being demeaned, abused, and possibly treated violently in any encounter with law enforcement. We have a history that supports this, news headlines that shout this, and personal experiences that confirm this. This is a reality that white people simply don’t know.” And yet he also challenges his own community: “I guess I really do understand why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. But here’s a reality that many black people don’t know: Somehow, some way, we have to get over it. We have to suck it up and obey when we are called to. We really must learn the practical value of obeying a policeman, if only to save our own skins sometimes.”
Watson writes from a position of constructive, measured anger—anger meant to spur appropriate action. “Five generations and 150 years have passed since the abolition of slavery. You’d think that after all this time we’d have reached real parity between the races, that there would be truly equal opportunity, and that we’d be seeing and experiencing fairness in society between blacks and whites. A lot of white people believe that’s actually where we are. A lot of black people know we aren’t.” He writes equally from a position of hope, and the best kind of hope—hope that is grounded in a deep and confident understanding of what God has already done and what God means to do in the world. Time and again he makes it clear that “At its core, the issue is not about race. It’s about the human heart.”
It’s even about his own heart: “I have to look inside my own heart and see what lurks there, what assumptions about white people I’ve formed, and what prejudices I still harbor. I confess I have prejudices and I make assumptions about white people as a whole, even though some of those assumptions have been proven wrong through individual relationships. I confess that I generalize such prejudices across the entire race. I confess I’ve harbored thoughts against white people that, while perhaps not harshly racist, have been judgmental and hurtful.” We have probably grown wearily accustomed to athletes who tack Jesus onto their lives as a kind of superstitious afterthought, but this is clearly not the case with Watson. He is a man who gets it—who gets the gospel and its implications for all of life.
Under Our Skin is a good book to read and absorb, to read and consider. In that way it is a valuable entry-level primer on issues of race and a thoughtful, articulate expression of the African-American experience. It invites the reader into the heart and mind of someone who may just see the world quite differently from him. This is a measured, balanced, and downright helpful work on a difficult issue. I am glad I read it and eagerly invite you to do the same.