White Friends: Here’s Your Bill for My Racial Labor

Dear White Friend,

Thank you for choosing me as your consultant for your recent questions and concerns about racism and/or racial reconciliation. I trust that your needs were met and you were satisfied with the level of grace, thoughtfulness, and honesty with which I responded to your inquiry. Below you will find the invoice for my services.

You may be surprised at this new billing structure. For many years, I have provided these services freely. Being a racial ambassador is part of my call to God’s ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-20), and I am grateful for the privilege of working with you. But the “worker deserves [her] wages” (Luke 10:7).

I am sure that you will find this new billing structure to be significantly reduced given my credentials, which include:

  • 40+ years of lived experience as an African Racial labor invoiceAmerican woman living in the southern United States, with a multigenerational legacy of slavery, sharecropping, and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • 13 years of formal, self-funded education in cultural and gender studies, theology, and psychology, resulting in 2 bachelor’s degrees, 2 master’s degrees, and a Ph.D.
  • 12 years as a scholar and teacher in these areas, with dozens of academic and lay publications, including my recent book, Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength.
  • 20 years of clinical and ministerial experience with people of color and economically disadvantaged populations.

The attached invoice does not bill for prior expenses. It is limited to expenses incurred directly as a result of our recent conversation, specifically the time for services rendered (time that could have been devoted to professional activities for which I am paid) as well as the considerable emotional distressed induced by our conversation.

Racism is not an academic subject that I study objectively or from a safe psychological distance. It is a systemic oppression that envelops my daily existence. When you come seeking answers to your questions, you are asking me to delve into thoughts, memories, and experiences that are bathed in emotion. Memory cannot be separated from emotion. So when you ask me to recall an event, you are also asking me to recall – even re-experience – the fear, anger, and sadness that accompanied it.

Further, each time I engage in conversation with you on these topics, I do so fully knowing that you may dismiss my experience. You may employ your white privilege to tell me that my interpretation is invalid, that you know more about my experience than I do, that your limited time thinking about race trumps my four decades of living with it.

Even if you do listen to and trust my experience, at the end of our dialogue, you get to walk away from it. I, in turn, slip further down the rabbit hole of painful racialized memory.

There are also the costs of continuing education. I work constantly to be informed about issues of race. This includes keeping up with the latest publications on race and gender, even those not in my discipline, so that I can serve as your personal reference librarian. That in itself is a costly endeavor. I am also required to keep informed about national issues such as Ferguson, Baltimore, Rachel Dolezal, and the Charleston shooting. That means that I am continually subjected to cultural trauma, which has significant impact upon my health and well-being.

Previously, I have simply absorbed these costs. I am unable to continue to do so. Thus, I am requiring beneficiaries of my expertise to compensate me for the financial, emotional, and physical costs associated with this labor.

It is impossible to estimate the actual monetary value of my services. Instead, I am billing you for the therapeutic services required to recover my equilibrium following our conversations. These include flotation therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture. You may remit payment by calling FLO2S or Massage Associates of Atlanta to put a credit on my account.

For high-frequency clients, I strongly recommend that you put my services on retainer by purchasing a FLO2S monthly membership or a Massage Associates of Atlanta acupuncture series.

If you are unable to work with this billing structure, I would be happy to refer you to an alternative provider for future consultations.

Sincerely,

Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Attachment: Racial labor invoice

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5 thoughts on “White Friends: Here’s Your Bill for My Racial Labor

  1. ethanseifried says:

    Dear Chanequa,

    I don’t know that I’ve benefited directly from your racial labor, but I am more than willing to care for you in your preferred way, as I believe white people have made black Americans suffer in many ways. Do you really want credits to those therapies you mention? If so, I’ll make one or both. If not, please let me know what I can do.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Pastor Ethan Seifried
    Renovation Church Atlanta

    Like

    • Greetings Ethan,

      I am grateful for your generosity. I am serious about the request for compensation from friends and colleagues who repeatedly call on me for free labor, but I am not asking for charity. This post was actually written not just about my own racial labor, but based upon sentiments expressed by many people of color in Christian social justice circles. There is a hidden workload involved, even in our friendships. Rather than contributing to me, I suggest that you use this post to begin dialogue with the people of color in your life who may serve in a similar role and who may suffer from reconciliation fatigue.

      Also, the Christian Community Development Association will be hosting a retreat for women of color who are engaged in reconciliation and justice ministry. Our aim is to help rejuvenate and sustain them to continue the work that God has called them to. We will raising funds for scholarships for women who cannot afford to attend. You might consider sponsoring someone.

      Chanequa

      Like

  2. Ethan says:

    Dr. Chanequa,

    Thank you for your reply. I think I understand better now the target audience of your message. Our staff just discussed this very topic at our staff learning time this morning. Pastors Leonce, Ralph, and Pamela expressed their fatigue over these matters and how hard it is to lead in a transcultural church.

    That’s a great suggestion for supporting the CCDA retreat for women of color. I appreciate your thoughtful response and your consideration of my question.

    Grace and peace,

    Ethan Seifried

    Like

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