Blackness isn’t exhausting; racism is
“Being black is exhausting.” A common refrain heard from the voices of disconsolate Black people whenever we are dealing with an onslaught of white terrorism on Black souls and bodies. We say it instinctually. After we’ve engaged in all the scholarly discussions and intellectual gymnastics about racism, we get to the point where the pain gets so enervating that those discussions don’t do justice to our feelings. When the violence becomes incomprehensible, our hearts say, “Being black is exhausting.”
However, we don’t realize that there is an inherent layer of inferiority in that statement—language matters. Being Black is not exhausting; racism is. It is paramount that we make a clear distinction between our and the evils that exhaust us, even as we attempt to express our pain. Our exhaustion stems from the sin of racism; it is not a feature of our Blackness.
When we say being Black is exhausting, we inadvertently agree with the narrative that there is some intrinsic defect in Blackness that leads to exhaustion. It removes the responsibility from the people and systems that perpetuate racism and places blame on our Blackness. We unconsciously harmonize with racism’s chorus by espousing the rhetoric that removes Black people’s agency to fight for a world of shalom.
We cannot allow anyone to make us feel that we deserve to be treated with savagery or that we need to attain perfection before being treated with dignity. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, we are all transformed from glory to glory in the same image. We are imperfect, yet we are being transformed. God isn’t transforming our Blackness—which is made in his image. He is renewing our minds.
We must hold space to vent our grief, our pain, our frustration, and our lament about the brutality of racism. As we hold this space, we should also reclaim the words we use in these confessional spaces. Racism has, indeed, assaulted us, but we should not let it dictate how we speak about the assault. We should speak of our affliction the way God does in Exodus 3. He says, “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt…” My people. The oppression the Israelites were suffering in Egypt did not change how God saw them – they were still his people. That’s exactly how we ought to see and speak of ourselves while in the crucible of racial violence and white terrorism. We are still God’s people. Blackness is still sacred. Racism cannot change what God has claimed.
Racism is the sin, not Blackness. Racism is evil, not Blackness. Racism is exhausting, not Blackness. Racism deserves our anger and the complications of our exhaustion, not our Blackness. Our blackness is God’s image. Our glorious Blackness is exactly as God intends for it to be. Racism doesn’t have the privilege to decide who we are. God has already made that decision.
Our melanin is our value. Our melanin is our protest. God is our Advocate. If he is for us, who can be against us?