The burden we have carried and continue to carry

As an African American woman, I’m acutely aware that many of us bear the weight of reconciliation in our bodies. This is not some social experiment for us. The call to reconciliation takes a toll on us. It takes something out of us to keep being the weather vane or the canary in the coal mine for the good of the church and the greater society. We feel this with our lives. This is one reason why women of color are dying earlier than our white counterparts are. Usually the story is one of institutional racism, of bearing the stress burdens of resistance – the outcome of our generosity. Yes, we are dying of generosity, of the generous gift of offering ourselves -our bodies, our emotions, our spirits – to people who don’t really want it or deserve it and who are often hostile to it. Frequently those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and yes, this is devastating. 

Unfortunately, our generosity causes us to do this over and over and over again, hoping for different results. Then, when we feel weary and tired and say, “I can’t play that role for you anymore. I can’t be that person for you. I can’t carry this for you. I need you to do your work, Yes, I need you to do your work!” we are seen as the ones who have changed. We’re no longer a team player. We’re not friendly. We’re being too political. We no longer care about reconciliation. This has happened repeatedly, and there are numerous stories of the many casualties of war. The moment that women and people of color stand up and talk about reconciliation from our most deeply truthful place – where we name what’s really happening and no longer put a smiley face on it – those in the dominant culture find ways to withdraw their support from our ministries. In essence, they find ways to make sure that our voices are not heard, that our books are not read, and that we no longer have access to places of influence. That’s how power works! However, truth be told, I don’t think people really understand the burden we have carried and continue to carry for them on behalf of the greater good. 

From “Becoming Brave: Finding The Courage To Pursue Racial Justice Now” by Brenda Salter McNeil – Brazos Press

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