A womanist lamentation:
Invisible, Commodified, and Expendable
As a womanist scholar, daughter, sister, mother, aunt, chaplain, ordained minister, health advocate, university professor, and so on, and so on. I had this notion along with others before me that God’s beloved community could be realized. The idea of creating God’s beloved community once seemed achievable, and it seemed possible, not by magic or prayer alone, but because of the hard work and the literal blood sweat and tears that have been invested by so many. Many who knew and understood that Black people were more than just Black bodies. Many who advocated for our humanity that saw us as fully human, not an invisible, voiceless expendable commodity. The rise of Black voices over time, the investment in issues of social justice, and this notion of racial reconciliation by many brought exposure to the value of Black life and humanity itself (people of color and poor people) for those who chose to see the value.
The mind, body, and spirit of Black people brought to these shores has a legacy of trauma that persists. Black people worked as enslaved commodities to build a nation that enriched a select few white Anglo Saxon Protestants. The labor of the oppressed was compensated with all manner of cruelty, which defined their expendability. To fight against this demonic treatment in life meant death or a crippling bodily injury to be a lesson to others who would dare think their life had value. The insidious nature of this evil has just shapeshifted, a shape that continues to use the guise of Christianity.
Plagued by the ostentatious yet ethically debased political state of this country’s top leader and those that condone and complacently follow that leadership is heartbreakingly sickening and continues to traumatize my community and me. This current political administration with no ethical or moral compass moves the realization of God’s beloved community further into the distance. To further add to this trauma is the continued realization that the leadership of the largest Christian university in the world, my employer, supports and falls in line with the unethical and immoral behavior, in essence, condoning racism, fear, and hate-mongering coming with biblical justification.
It was naive of me to think that my presence in an institution that historically contested my mere existence would ever change. Why did I take this job in the first place? Listening for and answering to a God of liberation and social justice sent me on a mission in a war zone. How can I continue to work at such an institution where the leader thinks it is o.k. to promote racism, hate, and fear? How can I continue to lend my expertise, credibility, and professional reputation to a university that will never see me – I am invisible, I am a commodity, I am expendable.
The saving grace for this experience is that some faculty, staff, and students valued my presence and accepted what I was bringing to their educational experience with respect and gratitude. With that, understanding that it is those same young folks/students who will be working in the institutions and organizations that intersect with people who might or might not look like them are why I accepted the call and went on this dangerous mission.
As a nation, we are traumatized by an original sin that continues the brutalization of Black and brown bodies by a criminal justice system that punishes these same men, women, and children with brutality and normalized cruelty. This shapeshifted racism comes in a newly evangelized package, a racism 3.0 if you will. A racism that is tweeted and mediated without retribution, rewarded with unquestionable devotion, and justified by “those Christians over there.”
The global health pandemic is only a symptomatic outcry from the universe. This outcry has burst many of the boils festering just below the surface of a national wound that has yet to be appropriately dressed—racism and the innate hatred that feeds the pustules is an infection that goes deep and spreads wide. It only takes a small break in the skin for that little bit of puss to create another insidious infection.
This womanist is looking to have her call rescinded for this battle. My soul can only take so much. God of the universe, God of liberation, your people need a permanent inoculation from this insidious evil.
We are visible. We are human. We are valuable.