Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
When I was first introduced to this Psalm, I was blown away. I was introduced to this Psalm by a queer, white minister during an LGBTQ bible study. For her, this Psalm spoke so deeply of her experience as someone marginalized for her sexuality in the church. And it speaks to me, too as someone who is marginalized in many ways.
I often feel like I am hated for no reason. I am hated because I am a black woman.*** And many would say that they do not hate black women, but so much of the way that I am treated by people who proclaim to care about black women demonstrates the opposite.
I am hated for no reason. And I am often forced to return that which I did not steal. I, who already feel like I have little compared to some others, am expected to give more and more of myself constantly. I am forced to come up with whatever I can muster, to cover up someone’s stereotyped perception of me by intentionally seeking to portray the opposite of what they imagine a black woman to be.
I can give you many examples of how my body and actions are perceived by black woman. As a black woman, I am read as someone who is hostile or as someone who is always readily available to help others. I am seen as someone who white folks are entitled to access at all times. Even men of color feel entitled to my body and my space. When I try to assert my boundaries as plainly as possible, I am accused of being an angry black woman. I am accused of sinning against my human siblings.
I am accused of stealing.
And them I am forced into positions where I am forced to return what I did not steal.
A white professor within my Peace Studies department (I am aware of the irony) asking me why I cannot seem to “separate the people from the problem” when asking him to stop pressuring me to have my trauma exploited for the “benefit of my peers”. I am not paid to teach at my institution, after all. Neither are my race-based traumas a spectacle for the academy. The institution is not entitled to consume my pain. Yet, I am told I am not committed to the studies and that I am anti-intellectual because I do not consent to this exploitation.
“WHY DO YOU TREAT ME THIS WAY? WHY ARE YOU PUNISHING ME?” my own father might yell, when I insist that he is not entitled to my time, my space, my body or my affections after years of emotional, psychological and physical abuse.
I am called selfish by my own mother for demanding space. And I am asked to respect her more, even though I have done my best to respect her, while also respecting my own boundaries.
As a black woman, I am hated for no reason other than the color of my skin. I am seen as exploitable and as an extension of others. I am not allowed to exert myself, lest I be punished. I am not given the benefit of the doubt. And no matter what I do, my efforts are often not enough to save me from ridicule and emotional degradation at the hands of white supremacy.
I am forced to restore what I did not steal.
I am expected to prove that I am kind in order to be spared judgement for exerting my boundaries.
I am expected to apologize to my abusers.
I am expected to comfort my gaslighters.
Hell, even white pacifists expect black women to hug neo-Nazis and to forgive Dylan Roof. If we are not ready to or cannot do so, we are deemed unChrist-like.
Straight allies expect me to be their friend and yell at me for not trusting them after I have endured being talked down to by them.
I am treated like I have committed wrongs for exerting my boundaries, my humanity as a black woman.
“I am being exploited by the state! I am being talked down to by my self-proclaimed allies! I am being stepped on by my co-workers! I am being underpaid by my boss. My sister was assaulted by her girlfriend. Here me: I am a child of God and my pain matters. I ask you to repent, my brother!”
But when I ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to change their ways, I am accused of stealing from them.
You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
Yet you, God, you actually know what I HAVE done wrong. Yes, only you know that I bear a conscious, that I keep more tight knowledge of my own wrongs… perhaps more so than most white people. Perhaps more so than most men.
There are so many who never think about the ways that they have wronged me. People who I have called friends, white people who never have to confront their own sins against me. White people who accuse me of being the emotional terrorist in their lives for naming the ways that they have sinned against me.
But you, God, only you know my true folly. You know my true mistakes. Not them, because they hate me for no reason. They hate me so much, that they cannot see me rightly enough to discern my sins from their own hatred of my body and my voice.
God, you know that I am committed to doing what is right. I am committed to following you. I am committed to returning that which I have stolen from others. But, God, I am so sick of being asked to return what I did not steal to begin with.
Someday, I hope to be reconciled with some of the people who have hurt me. Someday, I hope they will change their ways and be just and kind and gentle with me. Someday, I hope that they will see me rightly.
Someday, I hope that my parents will see their wrongs. That I am not a disposable daughter because of my black body.
But I know that their hearts are hardened by white supremacy and I may not see the apologies and change of behavior that I crave any time soon.
God, I trust you because you see me rightly and you care for me.
*** Author’s Note (as of July 2020): At the time that I originally published this, I identified publicly as a woman. I came out as non-binary in 2019 after finding language that better fits my fluid relationship with gender. My pronouns are they/them/theirs and no longer she/her/hers.
5 thoughts on “Forced to Repay // Psalm 69:4 #BlackGirlPsalms”
Listen. Just listen to what this author has written. Such bravery and authenticity. Such calling to account. Just read and listen to her.
Heart breaking! May God bless and give strength and courage to all those who are bearing this burden. . . And may the rest of us repent, asking forgiveness if we have been guilty of discrimination in any way!
I’m reading Psalm 69 and came across verse 4. The part that says I am forced to restore what I did not steal. It spoke so deeply to me, yet I felt like I really didn’t understand what it meant at all, but somehow it resonated with my soul that I could not move on until I understood it. So I searched and came across this. I am so overwhelmed with the depths of understanding I experienced reading this. Thank you for sharing this. May the favor of God be upon you. May He restore all things stolen.
Nina, thank you so much for sharing! It is always so meaningful when people like you share how the things that I write have resonated with them. That’s so amazing! ❤
Thank you for sharing this. While I may not be a likely responder, I beg your audience for a moment. I happened upon this while trying to further reference David’s pain, agony and vengeance. I had not read the whole Psalm before and thus I was taken back and forced to really examine it. Verse 4 caught my eyes and my soul, I struggled with it. I then started looking for insight when a link brought me here. In full transparency, I didn’t expect much since so many reference links offer so little, but I was pleasantly surprised. Your openness made me examine both my pain from birth (taken at 9 months and then 11 years later adopted by a mixed family), as well as my conversations with my kids as they struggled to find their identity. While my journey was painful, I promised that I would never allow my children to feel isolated, alone, or ostracized. But upon reading your letter, that clearly wasn’t enough. I owe them comfort for what I did do, and that was brand them with the thought that they needed to be more tolerant, more understanding, more accepting, wiser, smarter, etc…in short, give back what they didn’t steal. As a Christian I do believe these are ideal qualities, but I didn’t instruct them from a God fearing, reverent position; what I did, I did from fear of the world, fear of a rejected African American baby raised in the system for 11 years. What I did, I did from a slave-like mentality; yessa boss, no sir boss, I bees right der boss. I lacked confidence in God, in me, in the world. After reading your post, I owe them something more and will gladly read your message if circumstance allow this Father’s Day. With that, I apologize to you. While I am confident my 50 plus years have never crossed paths with you, my youthful self likely reflected an ignorant view in past relationships. Accepting someone for who they are is not as strong as loving, protecting, supporting, and praying for them. Sometimes accepting is nothing more than tolerating. So I want to give you my respect, my support, my love of who you are, and a prayer. I do this because I too know what it is like to have to give back what you didn’t steal, but I am blessed to now be able to give freely what I sowed into this world and God has returned tenfold -LOVE. May God bless you, keep you, enrich you, protect you, and guide you; may your heart never feel anything less than joy. Amen!