Rahiel Tesfamariam writes that black women act as if there is a war being waged against us. Yes, yes and more yes.
Tesfamariam recognizes that the U.S. still doesn't know how to deal with the "angry black woman," whether she's Solange in an elevator or a woman lamenting the life of her dead son. She goes on to say, "We wouldn't have to fight so hard if our minds, bodies and spirits weren't constantly in danger of harm or threat of misuse."
As a black woman, my instinct is to push down the sadness, squelch the anger, and reject the hopelessness until...I can't any more. I feel vulnerable, sometimes daily. Mostly, weekly. I can only bottle so much fear when, after repeated exposure of my vulnerabilities as a black woman, my hopelessness bubbles over, sloshing tears all over the place.
Earlier this spring, more than 200 girls were stolen out of their school in Chibok, Nigeria. CNN claims the story went under-covered without sharable images available. Thankfully, the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign took a life of its own, raising awareness and calling on governments around the world to help Nigeria bring these precious teen girls home.
The fact that their stories took a few weeks to pick up coverage, let alone prompt efforts for their rescue, is somehow depressingly normal. This nonchalant attitude is everything I expect from the world on my worst pessimistic days. On my best hope-filled days, even then our reality feels tenuous.
The message I internalize every day is that our vulnerability is acceptable and normal. Steal 200-plus teen girls to force them into sex slavery? Not newsworthy enough. Acceptable. Normal. When half of all African American women have been sexually abused by 18—including yourself—you not only feel it, you live it. I can't conceptualize a world in which I don't feel as if being a make woman makes me vulnerable. I feel the fears, the trauma, the heart palpitations of those little girls stolen out of their innocence into an indescribable nightmare.
How can black women begin to feel safe when we see others denigrate, objectify, steal, molest, rape, and pillage our sisters so often? Wasn't it just a few months ago when an international magazine editor sat down on the "black woman chair?" I felt a guttural, stomach-churning response to the objectification to that image. I watched Miley Cyrus appropriating black women while performing primetime television and felt sick. Then, by the time teen Renisha McBride was fatally shot , mistaken for an intruder on the porch of a home in Detroit, my heart crumbled again.
The broader Christian community has a role to play in addressing black women's (and men's) vulnerabilities and perceptions. Rather than ignoring or sidelining what can seem like difficult racial discrepancies, we need to acknowledge them frankly. In many places, the disadvantageous position black women find themselves in is obvious.
Beyond the troubling headlines, the stats and numbers provide further evidence. The maternal mortality rate for black women is three times that of white women—on par with several developing nations. In fact, today, a woman in Lebanon has a much greater likelihood of surviving childbirth than a black woman in America. Black women are especially likely to be a victim of violence. In fact, no woman is more likely to be murdered in America today than a black woman. No woman is more likely to be raped than a black woman. And no woman is more likely to be beaten, either by a stranger or by someone she knows.
In the U.S., black women are the ones most likely to work for poverty level wages, placing us among the ranks of the working poor. Black women have a greater likelihood of seeing our appearance altered in the media, dying without honor or justice, developing adult onset asthma, and succombing to heart disease and heart attack.
Something is very wrong here.
As Christian women, we must own that God is a God of justice, each of us individually and corporately within our Christian communities. If we can't own that truth individually and corporately we fail to recognize injustice in our midst, let alone globally. God requires mercy, humility, and awareness. He is calling us to recognize and address the plight of black women.
Addressing systemic racism has never been easy, pretty, or glorified. It's hard, humbling work that may require us to become ostracized, take on labels or judgments from others, not to mention the uphill battle of breaking out of existing systems and structures.
Yet, the Scripture commands the combination of justice and righteousness tethered together in our Lord. But first, we need to acknowledge: something is wrong for our sisters.
God has chosen us to do this work. He alone is the one who sees, who knows each of our sisters by name. I leave you with the charge of my Auntie Felicia, "Let him use ya!"
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