Gilkes’ need to find a place for the four loves

In perusing FB today I came across a post by an acquaintance who has one Anglo parent and one Indian parent. She speaks and writes about the experience of being bi-racial. Her post comments on a blog post by A Breeze Harper  On Buddhist Sanghas, Divesting in Post-racial Whiteness, and Nina Simone. Harper describes…  “what Katherine McKittrick refers to as a black female socio-spatial epistemology. See her book Demonic Grounds and she will break down how we develop our knowledge-base (epistemology) through our embodied experiences in racialized-sexualized spaces in the USA.” Later she asks: After spending the whole day there, I realized how ridiculous it is that I have spent so much time in largely white dominated spaces in which I physically and emotionally exhaust myself trying to explain what “racism is”, how “whiteness operates”, and that, “No, I’m not making this sh*t up in the head.” I have been depriving myself from these types of healing space my nearly entire life. At the end of the day of that retreat, I really asked myself, “What would happen if I stopped participating in certain spaces in which I can never just be ‘me’? What would happened if I shifted and just focused on spaces like the ones today?”

I was struck by how this connected with my experience reading Cheryl Townsend Gilkes’ “The ‘Loves’ and ‘Troubles’ of African-American Women’s Bodies (p81). Gilkes makes liberal use of Alice Walkers advocacy of the “four loves” as “ethical positions associated with a good womanist.” (89) These loves have to do with affirmations of self, embodied experience, and overcoming racial/sexual violence and the external valuing according to white essentialist norms. What Jha and Harper describe is the exhaustion they feel when trying to explain white privilege and the experience of being “colored” (to borrow the term Mary Church Terrell advocates) and the freedom found in a place where one does not need to explain or advocate for self. Yet Gilkes suggests that African-American women in particular often have to justify their existence and work even in their own community partly because of this very diversity in skin color, hair and body type. Given these tensions, how do we work together to create safe space, and what if any role does a middle class straight white male play in that formation? How can I use, sublimate, or relinquish my privileges for the sake of this formation? Can we all embrace the four loves or are they the explicit gift of the Womanists?

My Fall 2012 Reading List

for @ SMU|Perkins

ST 8375-001. Womanist, Mujerista, Feminist Theology / Baker-Fletcher

  1. REQUIRED: Cannon, Katie Geneva, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims. Womanist theological ethics: a reader. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, c2011. ISBN 9780664235376 (pbk.) $30.00 List
  2. REQUIRED: Weems, Renita J. Just a sister away: understanding the timeless connection between women of today and women in the Bible. New York: Warner Books, 2005. ISBN 9780446578943 (pbk.) Paper edition not listed at publisher.
  3. REQUIRED: Isasi-Díaz, Ada María. En la lucha = In the struggle: elaborating a mujerista theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004. ISBN 9780800635992 (pbk.) $23.00 List
  4. REQUIRED: Pilar Aquino, María, Daisy L. Machado, and Jeanette Rodríguez, eds. A reader in Latina feminist theology: religion and justice. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002. ISBN 9780292705128 (pbk.) $24.95 List
  5. REQUIRED: Japinga, Lynn. Feminism and Christianity: an essential guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, c1999. ISBN 9780687077601 (pbk.) $18.00 List
  6. REQUIRED: Ruether, Rosemary Radford, ed. Feminist theologies: legacy and prospect. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, c2007. ISBN 9780800638948 (pbk.) $21.00 List
  7. REQUIRED: Chung, Hyun Kyung. Struggle to be the sun again: introducing Asian women’s theology. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, c1990. ISBN 9780883446843 (pbk.) $24.00 List
  8. REQUIRED: Russell, Letty M. Church in the round: feminist interpretation of the church. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, c1993. ISBN 9780664250706 (pbk.) $30.00 List
  9. REQUIRED: Oduyoye, Mercy Amba. Beads and strands: reflections of an African woman on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, c2004. ISBN 9781570755439 (pbk.) $22.00 List
  10. REQUIRED: Gebara, Ivone. Longing for running water: ecofeminism and liberation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, c1999. ISBN 9780800631833 (pbk.) $29.00 List
  11. REQUIRED: Townes, Emilie M. Womanist ethics and the cultural production of evil. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 9781403972736 (pbk.) $30.00 List