An ex-slave woman told of the doctrine of resistance passed onto her by her slave mother, who refused to be whipped by slave owners.
The daughter claimed that: ‘…The one doctrine of my mother’s teaching which was branded upon my senses was that I should never let anyone abuse me.’
The heart of the slave mother’s doctrine of resistance was this: ‘Fight, and if you can’t fight, kick; if you can’t kick, then bite.'” —Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk
Contemporary Christians taught not to resist evil may struggle with narratives like this. Hollywood typically depicts enslaved people complying with White supremacist terror.
Only occasionally, as in Nate Parker’s forthcoming The Birth of the Nation and WGN America’s TV series Underground, do we get to see stories rooted in the experiences and perspectives of enslaved people, stories where they use their agency to resist the dominant order in both overt and subtle ways.
These stories are often violent, as the system was violent. They include incredible cruelty, as the system did. I still think it’s important that we have them.
We who’ve been taught not to resist not have to figure out ways to exercise our agency in this world.
We don’t all have Super-PAC degrees of wealth. We don’t all have the ability to vote. But we all have some measure of agency.
And, whatever our circumstances, we all have to figure out effective ways to use it, to resist the temptation to believe that we don’t matter, that our choices don’t count, and that we can only live in a world that others build.
With the electoral choices my American friends have this year, and with so much turmoil at all levels of society: “Fight, and if you can’t fight, kick; if you can’t kick, then bite.”