The black body sex sexuality and sexual orientation

The black political subject is an embodied subject. Since the days of the transatlantic slave trade, the bodies of African and African-descended women and men have been sites of political, economic, and sexual desire. European and European American representative esthetics further scaled these black bodies as primitive, lascivious, repugnant. This evaluation was at once religious and moral. It reflected white Western Christianity's ambivalence toward the body, sex, and sexuality. Yet Stuart Hall reminds us of the agency and creativity of the black political subject in using the body as a "canvas" on which to counter degrading definition and representation, to express oppositional aesthetics, and to mediate resistance and elegance (Hall 1992: 2 7).

Womanist theology in the United States presents one way of probing the experience of black embodiment and of contesting the biased ways in which African American women have been and continue to be perceived in African American religious, cultural, and interpersonal contexts (Cannon 1995; Williams 1993; Gilkes 2001). As a critical discursive strategy, womanist analysis proposes an esthetics capable and worthy of reclaiming and caring for black women's (and men's) minds, hearts, bodies, sex, and sexuality (hooks 1992; Townes 1998). Kelly Brown Douglas critiques not only the racism that has led to the "domination and demonization" of black bodies, but black theology's and the black church's avoidance of constructive discourse about sex and sexuality. Douglas also questions the neglect of HIV/AIDS which has placed black bodies at grave risk on a global scale (Douglas 1999: 22, 87-108, 139-41). Without dismissing the gravity of this neglect and the responsibility of theology and church, James Evans connects it to the fear and suspicion generated by the syphilis experiments conducted on black male prisoners in Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1932 to 1972. The Tuskegee experiment "confirmed the historical assumption that black bodies could be sacrificed for the health of others" (Evans 1997: 58).

Caribbean theology, like other black political theologies, has appropriated from Latin American theologies of liberation the methodological assumption of the hermeneutical privilege of the poor and oppressed. Theresa Lowe-Ching, a Jamaican of Chinese ancestry, utilizes this assumption to point out the absence of references to the experience of women in Caribbean theology and the dearth of women theologians in the region. Lowe-Ching and Cuban theologian Ofelia Ortega maintain that feminist analysis cannot be discredited as a foreign import (1999). Lowe-Ching declares that "values emphasized in the feminist perspective, i.e., integrity, inclusion, collaboration and mutuality" cannot be dismissed as "antidotes to crisis-causing problems," but ought to participate fully in "fashioning a total way of regarding and approaching the Caribbean reality" (Lowe-Ching 1995: 30).

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