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Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race--and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race--and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us

by Benjamin Watson, Ken Petersen (With)

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Can it ever get better? This is the question Benjamin Watson is asking. In a country aflame with the fallout from the racial divide—in which Ferguson, Charleston, and the Confederate flag dominate the national news, daily seeming to rip the wounds open ever wider—is there hope for honest and healing conversation? For finally coming to understand each other on issues that are ultimately about so much more than black and white?

An NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints and a widely read and followed commentator on social media, Watson has taken the Internet by storm with his remarkable insights about some of the most sensitive and charged topics of our day. Now, in Under Our Skin, Watson draws from his own life, his family legacy, and his role as a husband and father to sensitively and honestly examine both sides of the race debate and appeal to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496413307
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 404,769
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Benjamin Watson was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. As a Patriot, Benjamin received a Super Bowl ring in his rookie year. He now plays for the New Orleans Saints. He lives with his wife, Kirsten, and their five children in New Orleans, Louisiana.

JD Jackson is a theater professor, aspiring stage director, and award-winning audiobook narrator. A classically trained actor, his television and film credits include roles on House, ER, and Law & Order. JD was named one of AudioFile magazine's Best Voices of the Year for 2012 and 2013.

Read an Excerpt

Under Our Skin Group Conversation Guide

Getting Real About Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us

By Benjamin Watson, Ashley Wiersma

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Benjamin Watson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4964-1782-4




The Ways We Set Ourselves Apart


Segregation is still alive in today's "desegregated" America, and we all help it to thrive.


Before your group meeting this week, read the following chapters in Under Our Skin:

Chapter 1: Angry

Chapter 2: Introspective

Chapter 3: Embarrassed


The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?"

The Woman said to the serpent, "Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It's only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'Don't eat from it; don't even touch it or you'll die.'

The serpent told the Woman, "You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil."

When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it — she'd know everything! — she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Immediately the two of them did "see what's really going on" — saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: "Where are you?"

He said, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid."

God said, "Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?"

The Man said, "The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it."

God said to the Woman, "What is this that you've done?"

"The serpent seduced me," she said, "and I ate."

God told the serpent:

"Because you've done this, you're cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life. I'm declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He'll wound your head, you'll wound his heel."

He told the Woman:

"I'll multiply your pains in childbirth; you'll give birth to your babies in pain. You'll want to please your husband, but he'll lord it over you."

He told the Man:

"Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree That I commanded you not to eat from, 'Don't eat from this tree,' The very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you'll be working in pain all your life long. The ground will sprout thorns and weeds, you'll get your food the hard way, Planting and tilling and harvesting, sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk, Until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried; you started out as dirt, you'll end up dirt."

The Man, known as Adam, named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living.

God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them.

God said, "The Man has become like one of us, capable of knowing everything, ranging from good to evil. What if he now should reach out and take fruit from the Tree-of-Life and eat, and live forever? Never — this cannot happen!"

So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they'd been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life.



Take turns reading aloud both this section and the following section (The Conversation) as a way for your group to stay on the same page as you engage with the discussion questions.

At first glance, it may seem as if we as a nation have come far on the issue of desegregation. There are no more "whites only" drinking fountains. No more "colored" billiard halls. No more "For Rent" signs with disclaimers at the bottom specifying who can apply. There are no longer poll taxes aimed at keeping black people from voting. The Klan is no longer banding together to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, as they did in a brazen display of power in 1926. We're doing better than we were before the Civil Rights Act was passed, aren't we? Some Americans, at least, believe so: In a recent CBS News poll of more than one thousand US citizens, more than eight in ten white people and nearly six in ten blacks said that we are "making real progress" on getting rid of racial discrimination.

Certainly, passing laws that allow all people, regardless of skin color, to hang out on the same beaches, attend the same schools, and worship at the same churches represents steps in the right direction; but the fact is, real integration hasn't happened. Look around. Most American churches are made up of one racial group or another, but not both. Your neighborhood is inhabited by primarily one race. Your children's schools are populated by kids who are mostly one skin color. Despite our professed desire to break down barriers, we have taken a thick permanent marker to our lives, using bold lines to cordon off a little section of safety from anyone who doesn't look like us, talk like us, dress like us, or vote like us.

And those lines we've drawn? They're killing us as a nation and as followers of Jesus. Those lines of division are what keep us from knowing one another, feeling compassion for one another, and preventing the violence that has already claimed too many lives.

As time allows, discuss the following question with your group.

What are your views on the progress we have made as a country, in terms of blurring the racial lines drawn throughout our nation's history? Where is there still room for improvement?


In Under Our Skin, Benjamin talks about his grandfather's influence on him as a kid. "Pop Pop," who lived in Washington, DC, was larger than life to young Ben, despite Pop Pop's slender, five-foot-seven-inch frame. He dressed impeccably, kept a spotless home, and was known and beloved by everybody in his community. Pop Pop passed away at the age of ninety-three, just six months before Michael Brown was shot and killed. Had he lived to see that tragic turn of events, he probably would have said something like this to his grandson: "Benjamin, an awful thing has happened, and awful things will keep on happening. Don't let the awfulness around you cause you to live down to people's low expectations for your life. You rise above."

Pop Pop was like that. He was forever calling his grandchildren to a higher standard than what they would have chosen for themselves. "Make the most of what you have," he would say. "Be proud of who you are. Don't let the obstacles limit you. Overcome them." Regardless of everything Pop Pop had seen in his life as a black man growing up in DC, and regardless of the challenges he himself had known, wisdom flowed freely from his lips whenever he opened his mouth.

Our Words Expose Our Hearts

You can tell a lot about people by what they choose to talk about. Pop Pop was a prime example of that. And do you know who the best example was? Jesus Christ. In one of history's most divisive eras — when political, religious, racial, socioeconomic, and relational tensions were sky-high — Jesus arrived on the scene and declared a wild vision for life on earth, a vision in which unity, not division, was prized. If anyone had a valid reason for discriminating, it was Jesus, and yet he refused to walk that path. Instead, he came to make all people one.

In his prayer in the upper room, Jesus said:

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind — Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they'll be as unified and together as we are — I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you've sent me and loved them In the same way you've loved me. JOHN 17:21-23, MSG

One heart. One mind. Oneness that reflects maturity. Oneness that reflects God's love. These were the dreams that Jesus dreamed for us, the potential that he believes we have. In the most eloquent speech that Jesus ever gave, he laid out his plan for how this oneness was supposed to come about.

As time allows, discuss the following questions with your group.

Events such as Ferguson are troubling because they underscore the truth that we are not experiencing life as it was meant to be lived. Instead of unity, we're divided. Instead of coming together, we stand apart from one another. On the issue of race specifically, where do you see division in your own day-to-day world? Comment on any of the following categories that apply to you, noting which selections your group seems to share.

[] In your neighborhood

[] In your workplace

[] In your children's schools

[] In your circle of friends

[] In your church

[] In your recreational choices

[] In your community

[] Somewhere else?

How have these pockets of segregation come about? What dynamics or situations are responsible, and what fears, insecurities, or assumptions tend to keep those lines of division drawn?

Lessons from the Mount

Early in Jesus' ministry, just after he was baptized by his cousin John, he noticed that his teachings were drawing large crowds. In an effort to separate his true followers from those who were all about the spectacle and hype, he climbed a hillside to a place where he could be heard by the crowds, and he spilled the beans on what real followership would involve. In a lengthy discourse that takes three full chapters in the Gospel of Matthew to complete, Jesus says some pretty radical things. He talks about valuing other people:

Anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother "idiot!" and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell "stupid!" at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

MATTHEW 5:21-22, MSG

He talks about forgiveness:

Say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him.


He talks about trusting others:

If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.

MATTHEW 6:2 2-23, MSG

He talks about selflessness:

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.


"Contrary to popular opinion," Jesus essentially told the crowd that day, "you're not blessed when you're at the top of your game, lording power over people you deem less important. No, you're blessed when you're at the end of your rope; when you feel that you've lost what is most dear to you; when you're content with just who you are — no more, no less; when you care; when you get your mind and heart put right; when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight."

On and on Jesus went, providing the crowd — and future generations — with heaven's perspective on what is possible here on earth.

These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit — but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.

MATTHEW 7:24-27, MSG

You can't help but grin over that clarification; Jesus knows how we all roll. He knows that just like the crowd that day, which burst into whoops and hollers and applause after he finished, we will nod our head in agreement over his sermon and say, "Yeah! Preach it, Jesus. Come on!" And he knows that we'll then head off into our day and promptly forget everything we just learned. We'll stick that Golden Rule on bumper stickers and coffee mugs and magnets that litter our fridge, but when it comes to actually practicing it? Well, there's a little more to be desired.

As time allows, discuss the following question with your group.

In light of Jesus' teachings — including his exhortations from the Sermon on the Mount — what emotions do you think he would have felt over the tragic turn of events in Ferguson and the mayhem that ensued?

Walking the Talk

Back to the subject of practicing the Golden Rule, which we say we prize. As you survey the world around you, are you more likely to find evidence of people accepting others — even people who have differing opinions on how the world works — warmly and with open minds? Or are you more likely to find evidence of people calling each other idiots — sometimes audibly, sometimes not — and thus committing murder as Jesus defined it?

Are you more likely to see people contemplating the question of what they wish others would do for them and then actively, enthusiastically, and selflessly doing those very things for other people; or will you instead find endless self-promotion and greedy grabs for more?

Is it more likely that you'll find enemies rushing to extend forgiveness to each other and beginning a peaceful relationship again, or will those same enemies rally an angry mob, dig in their heels, and prepare to fight?

Agreeing with Jesus that his way is better? That's as easy as it gets. Actually living according to that better way? That's another matter entirely.

This disparity between wanting our world to be as equitable and enjoyable as the one Jesus described, even as we neglect our collective responsibility in bringing that world into being, was at the root of the problem in Ferguson; in fact, it's at the root of every divisive situation the world has ever known. And though we may have vastly different memories, interpretations, and opinions of the events that transpired between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown that day, surely we can agree that "twelve shots fired and one man dead" is not one of the noble scenes that Jesus promotes.

As time allows, discuss the following question with your group.

What do you suppose it will cost us as a nation to come together in unity as Jesus encourages us to do? What do you think it will cost you personally?


Have one person read the following section aloud, and then discuss it as a group.

This dilemma we face — knowing that a unified reality is available to us, even as we stay entrenched on our own side of the line — is hardly a new one. It didn't come about as a result of Ferguson. Or as a result of Watts in 1965, or Harlem in 1935 and 1964, or even the Rodney King verdict in 1992. It didn't surface as a result of the Chicago race riots of 1919, or as a result of the Civil War. Beyond our own borders, it didn't surface as a result of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, unrest in the Congo, the evils of Nazi Germany, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the slave revolt led by Spartacus against Rome, or any of a thousand other violent escalations that have marked every era of human history. No, to find the origin of our dilemma, we must go all the way back to the very beginning of time.

This session's Key Scripture takes us to Genesis 3, where we find humankind's first act of disobedience toward God. The scene opens with Satan, disguised as a serpent, deceiving someone, which is exactly what he has always done best.

Have another person read the following section aloud, and then discuss it as a group.

The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?"


Excerpted from Under Our Skin Group Conversation Guide by Benjamin Watson, Ashley Wiersma. Copyright © 2016 Benjamin Watson. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 Angry 1

2 Introspective 23

3 Embarrassed 47

4 Frustrated 67

5 Fearful and Contused 85

6 Sad and Sympathetic 111

7 Offended 133

8 Hopeless 153

9 Hopeful 169

10 Encouraged 185

11 Empowered 195

Acknowledgments 205

Notes 209

About the Authors 217

What People are Saying About This

Barry C. Black

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.

Tony Dungy

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.

Brooke Baldwin

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.

Dr. Tony Evans

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.

Chris Tomlin

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.

Drew Brees

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.

Benjamin S. Carson Sr.

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.

Franklin Graham

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.

Mark Richt

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.

Holly Robinson Peete

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.

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