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Published Date: February 8, 2023


Published Date: February 8, 2023


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Righteous Love: Making Space for Love Among Black Women

She was born the youngest child of very famous and illustrious parents—Black excellence and struggle. She was the exact intersection between everything they had done before her and everything they had planned to do with her mind in the future.

She was a lyrically poetic love letter written in emojis and TikTok videos, to the ingenuity of Black women who used magic (metaphorically) to transform hog guts into salvation.

She was the love of her ancestors personified in beaded cornrows and fourth-grade sensibilities.

And so when I visited with her at her quiet school on the Northside of Madison for our usual reading and tutoring time, I certainly expected to hear or see a hearty embrace of that love.

We sat on a wooden bench in the main artery of the school—a crowded hallway lined with cubbyholes stuffed with jackets and boots. She brought a text about the life of a ballerina of color, and I brought enough cookies for her and her class.

She began reading the book she checked out of the library with great dramatic, if not monotonous, fluency. It was a story about a ballerina who was born in another part of the United States, but moved to New York with her family at a young age and began to study ballet.

She read about the ballerina’s family structure, and ballet lessons, and how prestigious it was to study ballet at Juilliard. She read about how the ballerina’s family had loved the ballerina so much that they took on second jobs and made other sacrifices so that she could take her lessons.

In the middle of reading this she looked up from her book and paused for a moment, and then exclaimed confidently, “Well, I don’t believe in love.”

When she said this, I was shocked but not surprised. Here was a young Black girl who was bright and thoughtful, had the wind at her back, the sun at her face, and was enveloped in ancestral love, who did not believe in love.

But she had clearly learned a lesson that many Black women know all too well—that this country, this world, and even the church, the place they have struggled to help build and make a center for spiritual training and growth for all people—has little patience or room for any discourse about love among Black women. Simply put, they do not believe in love for Black women.

For me, from where I sit as I write this piece, this is the greatest civil rights issue of 2023—the need for our society to provide Black women and women of color the space to love and be loved, especially in the church.

We live in a world in which the Creator has stitched and woven love into the atmosphere of our earth. We have sunsets and jazz music and oceans and the laughter of children and ox tails, and so much more that provide indicia that the Creator not only loves us but that we are naturally designed to spread love, to love on, to be in love and charity with each other.

However, all too often, Black women are left out of the calculus of this dynamic of love. It is difficult for Black women to just be, or just be vulnerable and freely give and receive love in the manner that other humans are able to do.

According to philosopher bell hooks, in the Diaspora Black women have had to piece together their humanity in the face of breathtaking societal pressure that manifests as hate. If you are a Black woman in the United States, the most dangerous place for you to exist has almost always been your own home.

You have been among the most educated demographic of people in this country, yet you earn dramatically less than every other racial or ethnic demographic for the work you do. The same work, just with better quality. Medical professionals have generally believed that you exaggerate or magnify your symptoms when you present for treatment, and your access to quality healthcare is substandard. This is institutional and even codified hate.

Still, Black women continue to create joy and loving kindness, not only for themselves but for the world around them. The kind of loving kindness sent through encoded drumbeats in tiny West African villages that were dispersed throughout the African Diaspora. The kind of loving kindness that prevented plantation skies from falling. The kind of loving kindness Jesus talked about in Luke 6, when he instructed his disciples to love enemies, bless people who do not mean well but always speak a work of justice on behalf of the marginalized.

But they should not have to wade through layers of hate to get there.

To a church and world that does not believe in love for Black women, I would tell it the same thing I told my young reading friend. Love for and among Black women absolutely does exist, and it is our responsibility to create an environment that allows Black women to freely give it and receive it without conditions or barriers.

And to the church, this message is for us as well. If we are truly living out Paul’s call for us in Galatians 3, in which Paul instructs us to celebrate the richness of gender and racial diversity, while also ensuring equality and equity within the church, we must affirm love for Black women. We must find ways to normalize the conversation about love among and for Black women and increase social support for safe places for them. We must seek out opportunities to collaborate with diverse groups of Black women and give them the opportunity to share their stories. And we must educate all church leaders about the unique issues Black women face both inside and outside the church.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash.

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Men Need to Talk about the Difficulties Women Still Face
A Reflection on the State of Women’s Equality in the Black Baptist Church Context