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 American 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.
If you are unable to work with this billing structure, I would be happy to refer you to an alternative provider for future consultations.
Attachment: Racial labor invoice