The Weight of Race

Several months ago, a friend and I had a lengthy phone conversation about my idealistic vision for community within the framework of a congregation. He talked about the racial component to any healing/growing space. Today, I read a friend’s article about the complex relationship between race, attitudes against women’s ordination, and the lack of supportive black men—it’s much more intricate than that. Just about every day, I wonder how my interactions with or conversations about race are seeping into the minds of my mixed race children and what they’re doing with that information, how it’s shaping how they see their dad and me and themselves.

Listen. I’m so tired of thinking about race that I make efforts to ignore it. No, I’m not trying to be colorblind. I want to exist in a bubble. I don’t want to hear or feel or sense any negativity surrounding the impact of the categories humankind has created in order to feel better about itself and the countless ripple effects that have become a literal curse unto the third and fourth generation.

But I can’t stop thinking about race.

I’m black and I’m a black woman married to a white man with black and white children. I’m a woman pastor in a denomination that doesn’t have enough woman pastors to make being a woman pastor any kind of normal. Then throw in color and young children. A black woman is automatically labeled angry in her passionate moments, or melodramatic, unnecessarily loud. The assumption is that I’m this young thing who doesn’t really know what she’s up against—because people with young children are all in their 20s, right? (Not that 20-year-olds know nothing…)

I just turned 40. And no, I’m not old but I’m also not ignorant to all of life. And I have a pretty good sense of when things aren’t going well and why. I can analyze the mess out of a situation. For crying out loud, I have a BA and MA in English Literature—I’ve been trained to analyze stories and make meaningful connections. I’m kind of a pro at this.

And when I sit at any table, I bring a level of diverse thought with me because of the diverse spaces I’ve lived within—religious diversity, denomination diversity, Adventist diversity, language diversity, food diversity, color diversity, class diversity, aspirational diversity. The list is long as are my experiences. I do not draw conclusions out of thin air. I do not walk around completely ignorant of the undercurrents that are crippling every human effort to create peaceful, unified spaces. I don’t know everything but I know enough.

And I’m tired of existing in a defensive posture, attempting to prove myself when I know I shouldn’t but constantly getting hit with reasons to scream, “Treat me better than that!”

As hard as it is, I believe that until I face the discomfort with my entire being and make time to unpack all the bags, discard the waste, and carefully hold onto what really matters, I will remain broken by a system that I didn’t ask to join.

Each piece of my identity is an emotional weight and based on my current country and career contexts, I think the heaviest weight is race. So, with that in mind, let the truth telling begin.

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If you’re also wrestling with the weight of race, comment below and share your journey. What has helped you take the uncomfortable steps toward wrestling with and, eventually, shedding the weight?

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