I used to think I was made for white people. I know that sounds a little crazy, but its true. When I discovered this thing called "racial reconciliation" I was attending a predominately white college where many people of color found themselves constantly teaching white folks about racial justice. Following my undergraduate experience, I got a brief reprieve in Detroit, MI at Marygrove College (the only school I've attended where I was in the majority- it was glorious). That experience has been followed by a succession of employment, projects, workshops and speaking engagements that revolve around helping white people "get it".
With age comes clarity (sometimes), and for a couple years my thinking around my vocation has evolved. It is true that I've spent the majority of my life in PWI's (private, white, institutions). It is true that much of my teaching (and learning) has somehow managed to revolve around whiteness- white privilege, white ignorance, white shame, and what white folks "need" to get on the bus. Its amazing how white supremacy even invades racial reconciliation. Whiteness has a tendency to always put itself first, and I believed. I believed that white folks were at the center, the great hope, the linchpin, the key to racial justice and reconciliation. I knew that if this was the case, I was capable of bending and contorting myself to be the voice white folks could hear. And for the most part it worked reinforcing my belief that my vocation would always revolve around whiteness.
And then. I am not entirely sure when the shift started to take place. I suspect it was a subtle turning, a series of conversations, confessions spoken in whispers. Maybe it was in Detroit. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I dived deep into the complexity of vocation, spun it around, looked at it closely, then backed up so I could see it from afar. I looked in the nooks and crannies, hoping to find my contribution to racial justice and the Church but instead discovered myself. Stripping myself of a simplistic vocation and surface level observations of my journey allowed me to finally see my life and work without whiteness at the center. You know what I found instead? Women of Color.
Shocking right? Not so much, I know. But this was a real awakening for me. And if you've spent any amount of time in an institution that was only too happy to allow it to define you, you know what kind of revelation I'm talking about here. When I looked beyond a simple checklist- attended PWI's (check), talked about race (check), had an impact (check)- I made a lot of new discoveries but almost all revolved around surviving white institutions as a woman of color.
Peeling back the layers revealed so much. Secret conversations. Tears the institution never witnessed. Injustices leadership never acknowledged. The work of women of color- often behind the scenes, without titles or official positions. Doing the work. Daily doing the work with their lives.
Now, I'd have to write a book to explain all the ways women of color have actually been at the center of my racial justice journey. It would take pages upon pages to discuss our hopes and dreams for justice. It would take chapters upon chapters to explain how we are ignored and invisible until its photo time. The terms "self care" have taken on an entirely new meaning- far from bubble baths and good music (both of which are important)- I have learned that self care is political and women of color have to learn how to play. It would take so much to drag the depth of our experiences within PWI's into the light. And thats exactly what I'm going to do.
Drag it into the light.
I am determined to write a book that explores the experiences of women of color who are navigating white, evangelical spaces- hoping that darkness will give way to light.
Will you come along with me on this journey? Will you pray for me and talk with me? Will you share your stories, your questions, your observations? Will you beat back the darkness and enlarge the light, so I don't have to drag it quite so far?
Let the journey begin.