I Bring the Voices of My People is a tour de force sculpted, crafted, and presented by womanist scholar and pastoral psychologist Chanequa Walker-Barnes. With tenacity and creative genius, she weaves her thoughts like one who creates beautiful Persian rugs. To those gifts, she brings the design capacity of a seasoned structural engineer. Walker-Barnes imagines, creates a blueprint, and then constructs a textured dialogue that critiques the narrow nongendered focus of the primarily white evangelical organization Promise Keepers in their platform on racial reconciliation. She makes a vigorous, creative, detailed, textured argument that places women of color—their insights and experiences—front and center in understanding race, racism, and reconciliation. Using a womanist framework, Walker-Barnes constructs an authentic theology of racial reconciliation and racial justice.
In five chapters, she weaves distinctive, fertile conversations that embody theory and praxis, naming what has happened historically and what needs to happen in the 21st century. Her argument foregrounds the original sin of white supremacy to construct racial categories. Walker-Barnes uses Patricia Hill Collins’ power matrix of domination, Andrea Smith’s pillars of white supremacy, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s colorblind racism to support her theory about how racism operates. Further, she demonstrates how racism differentially affects diverse racial-ethnic groups. Her discourse clarifies how racism does not pertain to feelings or friendship, but the complex matrix of white supremacy.
Walker-Barnes builds on the ideology of white supremacy to show the importance of using intersectionality to support gendering racism. Pedagogically, she reflects this intersectionality in three ways: through examples of colorism, which glorifies white/Anglo aesthetics even by people of color; mammification, which depicts and expects women of color to act as asexual servants; and hypersexualization, which portrays women as dishonest, manipulative, and domineering, and allows white men to rape women of color with impunity. She explores the ontology of whiteness as a problem of white racial identity framed as a condition of moral injury. Moral injury continues to inform individual and collective identities of white people from four perspectives: conformity, trust in authority, selective sight, and egoethnocentrism (oneself and one’s racial-ethnic group), which undermines racial justice.
Using a novel as a case study, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (Harcourt, 1982), Walker-Barnes presses for reconciliation as a developmental process that demands confrontational truth telling, healing, and liberation for the oppressed, and repentance and conversion for the oppressor, toward building the beloved community, as opposed to expecting the process to begin with victims forgiving their oppressors. She concludes her volume with a litany of rituals and spiritual practices needed for divine eschatological (end-time) reconciliation. Incorporating these practices, which include confession, lamenting, and keeping Sabbath, Walker-Barnes helps her audience reckon with the long-term sociohistorical, cultural systems of violence that have long smothered life and freedom for all in these United States.
Walker-Barnes' writing, research, and conclusions are impeccable and powerful. Rather than bifurcating human reality and denying the connectedness between religions and politics, she engages all aspects of life in the United States. She offers insightful analysis. As a pedagogue, psychologist, preacher, psychologist, and pastoral theologian, she provides eschatological hope. I Bring the Voices of My People is a must-read for anyone committed to pastoral care, to racial reconciliation, to the practice of justice, to exposing gendered racism, and to working for a beloved community.
Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan is a retired professor, scholar, clergy, author, poet, athlete, consultant, and performer.
Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan
Date Of Review:
April 18, 2022
Chanequa Walker-Barnes is a clinical psychologist, public theologian, and minister. She is the author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength and has written over a dozen articles in theology and psychology. She serves as Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the Mercer University McAfee School of Theology.
Reading Religion Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on new books, new reviews, and more.
You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never share or sell your e-mail address.