Updated: Feb 25
As we near the end of Black History Month and move into Lent, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to reflect on the spiritual practice of fasting.
I grew up in a faith tradition that taught me about fasting by asking at the beginning of Lent every year: “What are you giving up?” This was often something simple - like chocolate or pop. No one ever told me this was a test to prove how devoted I was to God, but I remember always feeling as though this was a test and somehow my faith relied on me being able to resist the temptation of junk food.
Fasting as a spiritual practice provides an opportunity for our faith to be nurtured through intentionality. It invites us to ask “What is separating me from God?” and seek ways to adjust our lives so we can move closer to God. To say this plainly, because I think it should be said: diet culture and fatphobia that cause so many to feel hatred and sadness towards their bodies is a sin. Lent should not be used as a time of the year to put a “spiritual twist” on shaming our bodies. I like to remember Isaiah 58 as a helpful guideline for the fasting God calls us to take:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
So this Lent, I am enjoying my (fair trade) chocolate and being intentional about the ways in which my fasting can be an act of giving up White supremacy. As an East Asian, I am fasting from being the model minority as I resist the ways in which expectations of my “good behaviour” is used as a foil for anti-Blackness. As someone who uses a variety of social media apps that glorify colonial beauty standards, I fast from White supremacy by prioritizing content creators who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.* This fast does not have an end date after 40 days, but invites me time and time again to be mindful of the media I am consuming, mindful of the ways I invest my time and money, and mindful of what actions of solidarity I am being called to.
It is not a perfect offering, but it is the fast that I chose.
*For those of you also considering fasting from White supremacy on social media, here is a small list of 2SLGBTA+ Black content creators doing amazing work:
Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart https://twitter.com/oholyshift/
Naomi Washington-Leapheart, a daughter of Detroit, is an adjunct faculty member in the Theology and Religious Studies department at Villanova University. Most recently, Naomi was the Faith Outreach Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Prior to working at the Task Force, she was the suburban community organizer for POWER, a multi-faith, multi-racial network of congregations in Metro Philadelphia.
J Mase III https://jmaseiii.com/
J Mase III is a Black/trans/queer poet & educator based in Seattle, by way of Philly. He is the author of “If I Should Die Under the Knife, Tell my Kidney I was the Fiercest Poet Around”, The Black Trans Prayer Book, as well as “And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment, and Inappropriate Jokes about Death”.
Robyn Maynard https://robynmaynard.com/
Robyn Maynard is a Toronto based author and scholar. She is the author of Policing Black Lives: State violence in Canada from slavery to the present (Fernwood 2017).Maynard is the winner of the “2018 author of the year” award by Montreal’s Black History Month and was nominated for Writer’s Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers. She has published writing in the Washington Post, World Policy Journal, the Toronto Star, TOPIA:Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Canadian Woman Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies Journal, Scholar & Feminist Journal, as well as an essay for Maisonneuve Magazine which was the “most-read essay of 2017”.
angel Kyodo williams https://angelkyodowilliams.com/
angel Kyodo williams is a Zen priest, activist, and teacher. She’s the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace and Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. In 2020, she created the first annual Great Radical Race Read.