When I was completing my undergraduate degree, I took a course called Sociology of Gender. I was a sociology minor, so I was interested in the elective that discussed how gender influences the world around us. In one particular session, our professor told a story about a man he knew who had faced death. The man–who was able to be revived but was technically dead for a bit–had big news when he returned to the land of the living. My professor visited this man in the hospital and the man told him, “I saw God, Steve–and she’s BLACK!”
This shocked quite a few people in my class. How could God–all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God–be a Black woman?!?
The idea of God as a Black woman is not unheard of. Authors (including one of my favorites, Ntozake Shange) have stated this before. Even today, a man is selling t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “I Met God, She’s Black” (see Huffington Post article here for more details).
Given the whitewashed image of God that has been presented to Christians (and the world) all these years, I can understand my classmates’ sentiments somewhat. The church I grew up in still has a huge mural of a blonde haired, blue eyed, pale skinned Jesus right behind the baptismal pool. Don’t even get me started on the Exodus: Gods and Kings controversy.
However, as a Black woman, I love that God can be seen as someone who looks like me. Black women have been lowest on the totem pole of society perhaps since the founding of America; the inequalities continue even today as Black women make 64 cents to every dollar that white men make. Black women are often stereotyped as welfare queens, jezebels, or simply “angry.” Even the most successful among us is subject to the “angry Black woman” stereotype (I’m looking at you, Shonda Rhimes).
Black women are more than just the stereotypes that are perpetuated about us. Black women are beautiful, precious, and yes even heavenly.