Vulnerability can be dangerous in the same way water is dangerous. Like water, vulnerability can be the source of cleansing and renewal or it can be the source of drowning and death. But there is something else that is more dangerous than taking the risk of vulnerability, and that is silence.
As an African American woman who loves my African American sistas, I have learned that we are often silent about what hurts us the most. Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes refers to this epidemic as a “Deadly Silence.” She writes:
“Perhaps nowhere in society is the StrongBlackWoman more ubiquitous than in the Christian church. The church reinforces the mythology of the StrongBlackWoman by silencing, ignoring, and even romanticizing the suffering of Black women. Rather than offering a balm to heal the wounds of Black women who cry out about their pain, the church admonishes them with platitudes such as “God won’t give you any more than you can bear” and “If He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it.”
Acclaimed Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston was also a black woman acquainted with suffering, and she understood that we, as African Americans, could not be silent about our pain because silence would be the death of us. By swallowing the poison of our pain, we die a slow death, and for black people in America it seems as if nobody notices. As another artist wrote, “The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains.”
Knowing the pain, history, violence, and silence that have shaped the African American narrative infuses how I read the Scriptures. I come from a marginalized and oppressed people group that was enslaved for more than three hundred years, so I try to imagine the helplessness and hopelessness that the Hebrew people felt as an entire generation of their boys were thrown into the Nile River. What would be worse: knowing that the actual genocide took place, knowing that people in positions of power in the empire stood by and said nothing, or knowing that nothing would be done about this loss of innocent lives—that justice would not be served?
This is a painful narrative that is quite familiar to African Americans. Murder by the state. Silence. Then nothing. The heart dies a slow death. The painful reality of this death emotionally cripples us, and black people have been conditioned to say, “Thank you,” and take our lethal doses with a smile.
But I am not without hope. We see from Moses’ story that God hears the cries of the oppressed. God enters our pain, through our suffering, even in the silence. If healing is to come, then this pain must be named and confronted. We cannot look away. With every truth-telling moment, we can better discern what these moments reveal about our history, our authentic selves, our leadership journey, and our hope for a better future. Only then can we challenge each other to join in God’s great work of justice, redemption, and reconciliation. If healing is to come, then this pain must be named and confronted.
*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com