The Vantage Points of Our Self-Image: Reclaiming the Narrative

Brittney Elizabeth

2021. The year of reclamation.

Like many others, I have encountered more ebbs than flows this season, which has hurled me into the realms of uncertainty. And I know that I’m not alone. 

The nature of our times has Black people across the African Diaspora (re)questioning whether their Blackness is at odds with their faith. Many have felt compelled to embrace a state of “unlearning” in which they unpack their corporate and individual faith experiences. In a society that glorifies certainty, redefining one’s identity is not an easy undertaking. 

Uncovering False Narratives  

Overlooked and misunderstood, we’ve had to take up a performative identity and align ourselves with the dominant culture. It has mediated our Blackness through white normativity, and we continue to feel its damaging effects. We are not seen as dynamic individuals, which leaves us to wrestle with how we view ourselves. 

Our spiritual communities often compound this struggle, especially when they fail to reflect and acknowledge our experiences and personhood. Christendom has failed to recognize our Blackness as sacred and invaluable for so long, choosing instead to misinterpret and erase us. It has created a false choice between Blackness and our spiritual identity. Such distorted perspectives stem from a misunderstanding of who our Creator is and who we are. We were never intended to conform to the narrow-minded views that dehumanize us and promote a false narrative of who we are. Exploring and celebrating our Blackness does not negate who we are in Christ.

Reclaiming The Narrative

“We’re not taking over. We’re taking our place. We were never meant to be gods, but God’s.”  

Chineze Okpalaoka

With the pandemic compounding systemic racism and re-exposing deep-rooted racial disparities, we have had no choice except to address the issues that have been brewing at the forefront of our minds and hearts. We have had to pause, examine, and question our environment and its systems of beliefs. As we thoughtfully examine our faith, we can release limiting beliefs and detach ourselves from damaging labels and expectations.

As we reconcile aspects of our identity that have been suppressed or dismissed, we can also better identify the sources of our oppression. For example, as Black women reclaim their stories, they can better recognize the dehumanizing tropes that distort and dehumanize their personhood. Reclaiming our stories means understanding that we do not have to negotiate our dignity because we are created in God’s image. We get to choose the lens through which we see ourselves. We can decide what narrative forms and informs our identity. 

Our ethnic and cultural backgrounds were given to us on purpose, for a purpose. We do not need to live in a state of tension. Our faith allows us to walk in freedom. It empowers us to unlearn the one-dimensional viewpoint of ourselves and exposes who we indeed are– a perfectly imperfect embodiment of the divine.