I've been asked several times to reflect on my experience as a delegate of my annual conference to the General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. I've hesitated for about 3 months to do so, even after giving a verbal interview to have my opinions shared in public because there are things that I have been wrestling with over these long months and although I am grateful for the opportunity my comments may leave those who read them wondering if I really am.
First of all, let me say that I feel as though I have been at the longest conference ever that began in May and just ended in July. Exciting to be a part of history, and yet frustrated when the same history takes places over and over again. Mostly, I have been made aware of the intersections that exist in my life more than ever before and the reality that not one label can be applied to me for any length of time no matter how hard anyone has tried. Yet, this has been the most frustrating piece of the entire experience.
The categories/labels are:
Woman of Color
What this all means to me is that there are so many more ways to feel that I am never enough. There are more ways to feel rejected, judged and dismissed by more than one group. Of course, you know I'm gonna' quote my girl, Brene Brown here where she says, "The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture (not enough culture) are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness." (pg. 29, Daring Greatly)
For example, if I am an advocate for the full inclusion of the church in particular with my LGBTQ friends and colleagues in ministry. It doesn't mean that I am not as passionate about the totality of the term inclusion when it comes to race and/or gender but somehow we have managed to rob this word of its own intersections and have not recognized that when I say LGBTQ, I am also saying black, brown, men and women, youth and young adults because we do not take off our other realities when we categorize LGBTQ. They actually come in a shape and sizes, all colors and styles, economic status and legal status as well. (Or do we actually think that everyone that comes over the border is straight?!) There is value and worthiness is that!
When I say I am a woman of color, I recognize that within that category there are many intersections that cannot be separated. Economic status, education, orientation, legal status, and to include the categories that do not fit any of our neatly shaped boxes. There is value and worthiness in that!
I realize that when I say I am married and a mother there are scores of categories that pop up in people's heads, but if I were to tell you that I consider myself gender non-conforming people's heads begin to explode with speculation and questions about my orientation. There is value and worthiness in that!
So then, am I not Latina enough? Am I not heterosexual enough? Am I not female enough? Am I not married enough? Am I not enough? Where do I stand?
I often feel like Martha running around the house trying to make all things right because Jesus was coming over for dinner. Trying to prepare and be good enough for all parties involved. Trying to do what was expected of her. Jesus finally says to her with loving compassion. "Martha, Martha you are worried and anxious and distracted by so many things. There is only one thing." Jesus wants Martha and all of us to see that when we work, when we pray, when we speak out and when we act we do so from a place of fullness, of being enough! Not from a place of scarcity but from a place of being whole because God loves me.
The truth is we cannot ask people to continue to choose one thing over the other. We cannot continue to divide ourselves and our identities as though it were as simple as picking the box that best describes you. And we cannot continue to pass judgement on those who we think should be a part of one category or another based on our criteria.
Don't ask me to support you because you are a person of color if you are not willing to recognize that there are intersections that cannot be dismissed and that when you do, you are asking me to deny other things that identify me, and this causes me harm and this is exactly what assimilation tried to do and its a product of internalized racism.
Don't ask me to speak on behalf of all persons of color and at the same time pigeon whole me to fit your criteria of what it means to be Latina, woman of color and all the other intersections that you are and cannot make yourself aware of, this too is a product of racism.
Can we learn to value people as good enough to let them self identify? Can we value that all our intersections make up who we are and that all of who we are is loved and valued by a God who is called by many names. A God who goes beyond our categories and labels and expectations. A God who cannot be boxed no matter how hard we try.
A God who says...I AM THAT I AM and that is enough.