BLACK LITERACY: Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough By Candice Marie Benbow

Publication DateJanuary 18, 2022
PublisherConvergent Books
GenreBlack and African American Biographies and Memoirs
Pages208 pages
Overall Personal Experience* Gained compassion for the different experiences of all women
* Gained language for some of the things that cause Black Girls trauma
Method(s) of ConsumptionAudible and Kindle

This book is not for the faint of heart. Not for those sanctified Christians who abuse the Bible to wield their arrogance and spread dissension about any and everything inclusive. Red Lip Theology gives Black Girl Magic and feminism… Black feminism. There’s a difference. It also gives context, perspective, and opportunity for growth. Candice Marie Benbow speaks her truth, unapologetically, and provides clarity on things I have often found baffling about Christianity and the Black Church. Her ability to parse out the details of decisions made, and traditions practiced, makes this well worth the read, or listen. Her vulnerability is refreshing and humanizing. I am always appreciative of opportunities to support Black women. In a world where we are not always seen, it is most important that we see and hear each other because our perspectives are not always valued. The Black girl experience is not monolithic. Yes, the daily dose of Microaggressions at work, or the disregard for our emotions and the expectation that we are Teflon is definitely shared mutually. However, each of our stories is different and we experience life differently. Regardless of our choices and our paths, we need each other’s support, not judgment. What I learned from this reading experience is that we all struggle with our decisions, good and bad. Sometimes standing in our truth is rooted in immaturity and minimal background knowledge to make good decisions. However, we need the grace that is so effortlessly extended to others so that we too can grow and be better.

The Church and Absent Fathers

Benbow shares the disappointing relationship she has with her father and how his inability, or refusal, to be better for her was consistent. What’s more relatable is the way that the Black church humanizes absent fathers while demonizing single mothers. Insert that grace and Black Feminism I mentioned previously here. I valued Benbow’s articulation of the treatment single mothers in the Black church receive as compared to that of single fathers, or men who populate the world with reckless abandon (my words, not hers). Her explanation of these women’s experiences and the role that the church plays in the “accountability” of mothers while absolving the fathers is downright outrageous.

Mother/Daughter Relationships

Benbow’s reflection on her relationship with her mother made me reflect on my own. I admired Benbow’s candor and understanding of how her actions, though not always well-received by her mother, were necessary for Benbow’s path. In my own reflection of my relationship with my mother, I wondered where I have contributed to the victimization of Black women, whether it be through blame for the negligence and absence of others or resentment for expectations that fit into traditional tropes steeped in chauvinism and white supremacy. It made me consider how I can instill ownership and reflection into my own children so that they can defy preconceived limitations.

“It would be years before I understood that the shame I associated with being my mother’s daughter was actually rooted in the sorrow of not being my father’s daughter (36).”

Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough

Friends Save Lives

The importance of friendships for black women is evident. Black Girl Magic is not just a thing we say, it is a lifestyle; it is a way of thinking. The way Candice’s friends show up for her, by her own admission, literally saved her life. That’s powerful. What’s more, Benbow’s elaboration of how we can trauma dump on our friends when we are going through it, not realizing that we can, in turn, be causing our friends trauma was definitely thought-provoking. And yet, true friends are still there to help guide us and pick us up. Reflecting on my own friendships, this put language to the drain that I feel when talking to some associates and how distance becomes necessary due to my lack of capacity to continuously hear about, and process, their drama. Benbow talks about having boundaries in place for reasons like this.

Give Black Girls Grace

In the chapter We Should All Be Feminists, Benbow says, “Being molded by scorned women hurts” (p.105).” I had to read that one twice. And while that line was a scorcher for me, the paragraph that followed elucidated a scathing reality far too normal for many Black girls and women. Unfortunately, I can completely relate to the meanness of Black women toward other Black women. Heck, I have been on the receiving end of it. Just because your path was horrendous, doesn’t mean mine has to be. Trust me, what I have to deal with is its own form of dreadful. No one needs the added baggage.

The road to success for Black women is already challenging enough without the added bullying of other Black women who have “made it.” Candice called it “hazing,” and that is exactly what it is. We definitely have to give each other more grace and guidance while also appreciating the differences in each others worlds. The success that we have as a collective is because of all of the work of the Black women who preceded us. The only thing that happens when we haze each other in the process is that we make a bunch of neophytes who not emotionally fit to pledge the next line. Because those neophytes have not dealt with their own trauma, they simply pass it on the next line, adding insult to an already injurious process.

After reading this chapter, I really do hope that I am always on the side of giving Black girls grace because I definitely know how empowering and uplifting it is receive grace and guidance, while not being hazed. This lends itself to more powerful relationships, better foundations, and stronger connectivity within our community. Dear Black Girl, because you struggled, I AM. I am present. I have voice. I am at the table. Thank you for what you’ve done. My struggle looks different than yours, but I am still struggling. We need each other to navigate these treacherous waters. Give Black girls grace.

Powerful Quotes

  • “Beyond just saying God is a man, assigning the male gender to God potentially shapes how we, especially Black Christians, see all men (35).”
  • “One of the greatest gifts womanist theology gave me was the validation of Black women’s experiences. What we say happened to us matters. Full stop. It doesn’t have to be qualified by anyone or mediated against another truth. It stands alone (152).”
  • “There will be people who reject our creation and enforcement of boundaries. Some people like unfettered access. Others like the power and moral superiority a lack of boundaries makes possible (168).”

Who Should Read It

Being raised in the church is commonplace for many Black families. Understanding how the beliefs of the church shape who we are is important to our development. Every Black person’s experience is not the same, so the shaping is not going to be the same. However, there are some commonalities that we all share, and this books gives light to some of those things. While I did not agree with everything I read, I did find truth in some of Benbow’s perspectives.

I had the privilege of participating in a Book Talk with Glow It Away, and I was invigorated by the conversation. Way lead to way, and we had a few epiphanies that resonated with us all. Talking with those Black women and understanding their perspectives and experiences helped me better appreciate my own comprehension of the text and what it meant to me. If you haven’t read Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough, grab your tribe and set a date to discuss. You will be the better for it.

Disclaimer:This is not a review. I do not review books. This is a reflection of my experience with the text. The purpose of this post, and posts like these, are to highlight Black literature that I consume in hopes of introducing my audience to Black works.

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