“I Am Frequently Reminded I Am an Outlier.” | Sojourners

“I Am Frequently Reminded I Am an Outlier.”

An excerpt from "I Bring the Voices of My People," by Chanequa Walker-Barnes.

“WHY AM I here?” The question echoed in my head as it had on countless prior occasions. It seems that I cannot participate in a meeting or conference about Christian community development, social justice, or racial reconciliation without the question emerging at least once. As an African American woman, I am frequently reminded that these spaces are not my home. I am an outlier: I am neither White nor male, and I don’t fit neatly into any of the typical Protestant boxes. I am too evangelical to be mainline, too mainline to be fully historical Black church, and too historical Black church to be evangelical. Sometimes I even feel too interfaith to be Christian. I am often alone in a room full of people—the only woman of color and even the only African American woman. The conversations in these spaces are often overtly patriarchal, dismissing women’s experiences and expertise. These groups think diversity is achieved if they include men of color and White women, both of whom make pronouncements about race and gender that are assumed to capture everyone’s experiences but that exclude those of women of color. I am often forced into the position of being the “Yes, but” voice. It is soul-wearying. And yet I—we—stay.

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