I’m told that this is women’s history month. A celebration of women and all that we have been through and all that we have achieved in spite of. Honestly I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I am proud to be a woman. I am happy to celebrate the accomplishments of a fiercely loving, loyal, group. I come from a long line of strong women who laid down their lives and sacrificed for the next generation, and the generation after that, and the generation after that. I too am a strong woman. But I am not just a woman. I am a black woman, and therein lies the conflict…
Throughout history the fight for equality in race has been different than the fight for equality in gender, even if they assisted one another at times in their endeavors. Though blacks “technically” received the right to vote before white women, that vote was hindered by “Jim Crow Laws” and other blatant biases (at least some things have changed.) Now here we are some 60 years later since Martin and Malcolm marched/rallied their way into equality leading loads of men and women with black and brown skin.
Well, other things take time I suppose…
But where does that leave me as a black woman celebrating womanhood when generally speaking society sees me as a black person first before it sees me as a woman? I know this because some of the racism I have been the recipient of has come from white women. And I am still healing from those experiences today.
The black woman’s plight is a precarious one that navigates the social and class structures delicately as we have experienced oppression, ignorance, biases and blatant racism on all fronts from both white men and woman. We can be seen as “lesser than” and gender has hardly been a variable.
Even still, regardless of these painful injustices I recognize that there is a beauty in womanhood that was attempted to be stifled by the ferocious flames of oppression. I see that femininity is a gift that is needed in a world of war and poverty, loss and devastation. What will a generation look like without the comfort and nurturing of a woman’s breast? What does a child become when there is no one to kiss their scar after a hard fall? Well, they become just as hardened as that fall of course.
Womanhood is vital to the full expression of the Creator and should be valued as such in our everyday lives. Even when He appeared in the form of man Himself, He demonstrated this need.
One of the earliest records that I know of against the fight for women’s equality, is Jesus Christ. A man who stood up for the woman caught in adultery when she was found in the act with her lover. Last I knew it takes two to tango, yet isn’t it convenient that she was the only one being convicted of the crime?
Again, Christ engaged in lengthy, heartfelt dialogue with the Samaritan woman by the well. And though there was an issue with her race, the text reads that the real issue was with her gender: “And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman”…John 4:24). I can just see the incredulous looks on the disciple’s faces flushed with privileged horror. They themselves were a lesser class as Jews yet when it came to women, well, there were those who were considered even lesser still.
Christ’s ministry included women, giving them a place to speak and a voice to do it with. The very first person to share the gospel was a woman when Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples after encountering a resurrected Savior and shared, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18). Indeed she had, and was entrusted with the onset of the spreading of “the good news” by God Himself.
I am grateful to have a greater understanding that, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12). Our fight is never in what we see with our natural eyes and our real enemy is only seen with our spiritual ones. The biases and prejudices that manifest do so from the corrupt hearts of mankind. We will alway seek to dominate and oppress and withhold love when we are insecure that we are not unconditionally and indefinitely loved ourselves. I know this from personal experience. And often, we fear those we perceive as being more powerful, just as Pharaoh did when he enslaved the Hebrews; they were a people more numerous than his own and that made him nervous (Eph 1:10).
As a Black woman society may see me as black first, and then a woman, but God sees me as His and He has used many to open doors for me and shower me with favor whether their skin was white, brown, red or yellow.
He has given me the insight that my first identity is in Him, and that, I recognize, is a privilege.