Statement in Support of Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes
April 23, 2021
The Women’s Caucus of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) publicly state our support for our colleague Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes.
Dr. Walker Barnes has been an attendee and panelist at the AAR/SBL, enlivening AAR/SBL events with her wisdom and passion for justice for all peoples. She uses her insights and analysis as a clinical psychologist, minister, and academic scholar to uncover the pernicious and often subtle ways that women of African American descent come to harm in the U.S. We welcome her contributions to the Women’s Caucus and to religious thought in general.
Dr. Walker-Barnes is a welcome subject of the Women’s Caucus’ initiative, 1000 Women in Religion, “A Call to Action: Raising Up the Marginalized Voices and Contributions of Women in the Academy.” Her biographer, Kimberly Carter, comments that Dr. Walker-Barnes’ “focus on bringing both awareness and solutions to the problems of racial inequalities makes her work crucial in racial and social justice work.” We could not agree more, and again; we give our full-throated support to Dr. Walker-Barnes, her scholarship, and the prayer that she has so powerfully crafted.
Dr. Barnes-Walker’s “The Prayer of a Weary Black Woman,” in “A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal,” is a lamentation or call to God that helps all Christians understand the many ways that racial oppression wounds people of color in everyday life. With this prayer, Dr. Barnes-Walker calls us to examine and explore how we consciously and unconsciously tear down rather than build communities of love and trust across what is clearly a racial divide. But, most of all, she gives us a model for how to take our vulnerability and anger to God. Dr. Walker, following the historical tradition of womanists such as Harriet Tubman, marries personal suffering to community action as a response to racist belittlement. She understands that one cannot be truly free until we are all free.
Pulling Dr. Walker-Barnes words out of context and using the expression CRT (critical race theory) about this prayer shows that it is not Dr. Walker Barnes playing identity politics. Still, those who attack her and, like many politicians today, cynically use religion as a cover for a political agenda that seeks to crush the voices of people of color. Dr. Walker-Barnes’ lamentation, really a defense of her humanity in the eyes of God, has unleashed a rage, anger, and vitriol that is deep and dangerous. People are willing to troll and harass Dr. Walker Barnes and her family and destroy her career as a teacher, minister, and professor - all in the name of Christianity. This is a racist and tribal white Christianity that we do not recognize. It is a reminder of how racism binds and diminishes even our faith.
The Women’s Caucus of the AAR/SBL defends our friend and colleague Dr. Walker-Barnes prayer, her career, and her Christian witness. We demand that the trolling, hate speech, and harassment stop. We call on Christians of good faith to act upon their faith in heartfelt dialogue rather than sow the seeds of division and discord.
The Women’s Caucus of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature