I’ve watched women in my family and abroad shoulder weight that wasn’t their own to carry, bearing the burdens of wicked white people and miserable men and and needy children and soul sucking jobs and time consuming churches. The only places where they seemed to be able to cut loose was in the dances and shouts down dusty aisles of churches as tears flowed. They didn’t talk about their pain much that I saw—not even to each other.
And some of them had good husbands and good jobs and good churches and good children, you know. Even good white folks (black people will know what I mean, especially ones from down south). Not every one would be abused or sorrowful or finding themselves in insurmountable circumstances or sorry situations. But when you’re the one who carries the weight? You cry the tears.
The expectation placed on the shoulders of black women has always been heavier. We are expected to be better, kinder, smarter, faster, sweeter, swifter, nimbler, jacks of all trades, miracle workers, purveyors of magic and mystery, yet not to show anybody up or show out or shine too brightly lest any of your feelings be hurt. We need to serve impeccably but not expect to be compensated or appreciated—in fact be grateful for the contempt that is inevitable as a result of the insecurity that oozes out of the pores of those we serve while they expect the impossible then became angry when the improbable was delivered in half the anticipated time.
And so I wondered as I wrote this poem… how much of that outward show of holiness was performance? What does free indeed look like in Christ when we can shuck off the binding shackles and constraints of the cultural shame and envy we carry along with the loads thrown our way?