When Churches Colonize Femininity

The colonization of femininity and masculinity are only a few of many examples of Internalized racialization and how it can be traumatic for people of color. For women of color, it can leave them deeply discouraged in their singleness and also feeling like they can never measure up to the Bible’s expectation of piety when in actuality, they are being compared to a cultural paradigm and not a biblical one. Of course this doesn’t just affect singles but married sisters as well. For men of color; it cultivates in them a deeply entrenched feeling of self-rejection. They feel like they need whiteness in order to belong and since whiteness is not inherent with them, they pursue it through marriage. 
 
I’ve had a decent amount of conversations recently with men and women of color who are members of majority white churches. These men and women are deeply discouraged in their contexts and feel like they do not truly belong. Many majority white culture churches have a serious issue when it comes to caring for minorities in their congregations. There is a tendency in these churches of discipling minorities into white cultural expressions. This practice is most clearly seen in regards to how minorities, in white churches, are discipled into concepts of femininity and masculinity. For this article, I’d like to focus on how this issue primarily affects women of color. The paradigm for femininity in most (if not all) majority culture churches is the model of the “white soft-spoken woman.” She has with her certain traits that are referred to as marks of piety when in reality they are elements white culture. It’s not that “soft-spokenness” is inherently “white” but the version of it that is expected to expressed is often an idealized version of a white woman, typically akin to a white southern woman from the antebellum era. Men of color are told that this is the kind of woman they are to pursue if they desire a godly woman and be considered relationally wise. Women of color are told that this is what they must be and that they are godly to whatever degree they reflect this image and immature to whatever degree they don’t. If they are opinionated, they are considered ungodly. Expressive or “loud”, ungodly. The list just goes on and on.
What ends up happening in this scenario is that women of color who have various personality types or cultural expressions that are contrary to this white paradigm are placed on the sidelines as being poor potential wives. They are considered to be lacking femininity. Men of color, in their desire to fit into the majority culture context, pursue white women who fit the paradigm. The problem is that they pursue only white women and view white women as the standard that they are to compare all women to. Women of color (especially black) feel abandoned by their men and ultimately begin to feel inherently ugly and spiritually inferior as they are made to feel like they do not fit the biblical paradigm for womanhood. In reality, they are being judged according to a cultural standard, but they aren’t told this. This leads to deep trauma in the hearts and lives of women of color. [see my YouTube lecture on Racialized Trauma and the church for more on this, link below]
Now, I do not want you to misunderstand my words. I am not criticizing interracial marriages. My grandmother and grandfather were an interracial couple who sacrificed and risked everything together, and I am tremendously thankful for my multi-ethnic heritage. I am simply critiquing certain motivations behind certain marital pursuits that ultimately lead to extremely challenging marriages in the future if not dealt with early on. There are absolutely black and white couples who are abounding in love and do not fit the structure that I am presenting here. I am not talking about those people. I am sure that there will be people who will seek to misrepresent my words but nonetheless, I want to make my critique clear. Again, I praise God for interracial marriages. I fully support interracial marriages. I believe interracial marriages are a wonderful way to demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel. What I am criticizing is the paradigm that people of color are forced to adopt in many white church contexts that cause them to consider themselves and their own cultural expressions as inferior. I am speaking to A paradigm that all women are often forced into that is deeply crippling and hurtful for those that don’t measure up.
I spoke to a young man recently who I know personally and have invested years into discipling. He is a godly younger brother who I love deeply and treasure as a friend. I noticed that this young man had a tendency of only pursuing white women ever since he joined a majority culture church context. For various reasons that will remain unspoken, I decided to speak with this brother and investigate whether or not he had bought into this paradigm. I began asking him some questions. These were the final questions I asked him:
Me: Who would you consider more feminine, Taylor Swift or Lauryn Hill?
Him: Taylor Swift
Me: Who would you consider more feminine, the white antebellum southern woman with the soft and meek voice or the slave woman working in the field picking cotton in rags?
Him: The White Southern woman.
He immediately began to see what he was doing. It was a huge moment for him as he began to realize that he had been psychologically and theologically colonized to consider white superior. Specifically, white expressions of femininity superior to feminine qualities expressed by women of color. Even though his own mother and sisters were women of color.
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