For me, the decision to attend seminary was based on a deep desire to know why. Why are so many Latinxs so bent on being committed to this religion that was shoved down our throats? Literally. Why are so many Latinxs internalizing racism, sexism, and classism; and what does the church have to do with it? I needed answers, so I went to one of the most liberal seminaries in the country, Vanderbilt Divinity School. And still, I found myself reading primarily white men in about 95% of my classes. So on the rare occasion when they assigned a person of color, I ate that shit up. I found solace in these rarely assigned or self-assigned POC theologians and ethicists who have basically formed me, from that moment onward. So here is my list, as a Latina theologian, of the most important Black and Latina theologians and ethicists to read.
Womanist Theological Ethics edited by Katy Cannon, Emilie Townes, and Angela Sims
This anthology has five parts. The womanist movement was started by Black women to make theological sense of God through their experiences. Black women began to realize that Christian theology did not have their voices in it, and Black theology usually meant Black men’s theology. So, there was this response to liberation theology in the Black church that said: what about Black women? Womanism has gone through waves and changes, and this particular anthology has some of the giants in what some would call second-wave womanism.
“African American women were probably the first women in the United States to be displayed publicly without clothing. Slave auctions often drew crowds of observers because, in their display of women to be sold as slaves, they pandered to white prurient curiosity. Black women’s bodies were the object of intense public curiosity… the abuse and degradation of slavery was the first step in a devaluation or labeling process that shape attitudes and actions toward black women.”
En La Lucha/ In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz
This Cuban refugee theologian is probably my favorite, and one of the most notable Latina theologians. She is in direct conversation with womanism so much so that Mujerista is a direct translation of womanism. It’s a name of our own though, because to be a womanist you have to be a Black woman; and to be a Mujerista you have to be Latina. Mujerista theology is rooted in grassroot Latina experiences. A tenant of Mujerista theology is that our understanding of God and ourselves is more organic, meaning that we can both go to a traditional Catholic Church while expressing almost sacrilegious devoutness to Guadalupe. Mujerista theology can hold that. And explores that reality.
“The goals of mujerista theology have always been these: to provide a platform for the voices of Latina grassroots women; to develop a theological method that takes seriously the religious understandings and practices of Latinas as a source for doing theology; to challenge the theological understanding, church teachings, and religious practices that oppress Latina women, that are not life-giving, and, therefore, cannot be theologically correct”
Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter by Traci C. West
This is actually one of my first books by a person of color that I read in Divinity school, and it just so happened to be Tracy West. This book discusses a lot of things that churches don’t want to talk about, and those are racism and the sexual violence committed against women, specifically towards WOC. She moves away from theory and is asking the church for some actual practical responses. She is demanding that the church become accepting of marginalized people, which includes Black folk, Spanish-speaking folk, LGBTQIA folk, and the like.
“Community members such as poor, Black single mothers who have achieved amazing feats of struggle in survival on public assistance will most likely not be among those celebrated for accomplishments of her gifts of courage and tenacity. Indeed, the salvation that may be preached and prayed about them will be focused on helping them repent of their allegedly lazy ass dumb dirty ways. These worshipers may learn that earning God’s approval is exactly the same as earning the approval of white politicians and media spokespersons who make racist assessments of them.”