Note: This is based on a podcast which can be heard here.
What is love? What’s love got to do with pain and suffering? Are they related? Pain and love? Must one always be present with the other? In this blogpost I explore pain and suffering through a womanist perspective (centering the perspectives and lived experiences of Black women) and discuss how to live into wholeness and wellness. This is especially important because the Black community/women in particular’s experience in the US (and globally) has been and continues to be defined by pain and suffering. What are the theological implications?
How have Christian frameworks at associating love with sacrifice and pain justified the pain and suffering of Black women? How can we decolonize love so that liberated Black women are empowered to embrace a love that does not hurt first with false promises of rewards later in life or afterlife? Black women, pain does not equal love.
One of the 18 characteristics of Africana Womanism is being a self-definer. This piece is a sliver of my process to do and be exactly that.
I am striving to be a whole Black woman. I have an awareness that I am a whole person and transcend the role that Amerikkkan* society has given black women. Wholeness is justice and justice/liberation is wholeness. We are unaware of the full extent that racism has impacted Black women psychologically and emotionally. I’m saying racism constricts us in exhausting ways- the results have been wearing on our mental and sexual health, senses, nerves, physical health for years. And it still is.
Many questions are asked of us as a community, but the answers which are so complex that we should be commended for even attempting to answer, are heard- if they are not interrupted- but rarely understood. As a Black mother and wife, I have accepted the fact that no one will understand my struggle outside of other Black mothers and wives. After being asked questions about how my community relates to slavery, I am convinced that no one outside of my Black American community will ever understand how slavery has impacted our lives, identities, family structures, trauma, and deaths. Furthermore, it has yet to be understood how the past of slavery continues to impact these areas as a people.
Firstly, although slavery has left an immense imprint on our racial memory, the Black community is not stuck in slavery simply because we bring it up. It is brought up because it is a part of our story and we should not be made to feel ashamed of it. Just because you are tired of hearing about it or uncomfortable does not mean that Black Americans should be made to feel as though should avoid speaking of our history. Some many pro-Black groups and movements emphasize and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans before, during, after, and despite slavery. However, these movements threaten the dominant culture, and much of their achievements are ignored or perceived as threats and terrorism. It is hard to educate ourselves and our children about our ancestor pre-enslavement because our legacy, history, sacred knowledge, and culture were destroyed and our memories were erased and replaced with the bible and colonialist interpretations of scripture. Many of these scriptures are interpreted to justify slavery and are still used to justify police brutality, mass incarceration, and psychological warfare on Black Americans. Nevertheless, we do what we can to celebrate ourselves and our heritage. In doing so, we cannot ever forget slavery.