All Genders and Races Reclaim Our Sacred Worth: Njeri Matthis Rutledge & RBG

Our Mother within us will bring new life to birth;
all genders and races reclaim our sacred worth.
She holds us closely within Her love,
living within us, around, above.

Our Mother within us supports us every day;
all genders and races reveal Her sacred way.
She holds us closely within Her love,
living within us, around, above.

Our Mother within us inspires our work of grace;
all genders and races reflect Her sacred face.
She holds us closely within Her love,
living within us, around, above.

Words © 2019 Jann Aldredge-Clanton   

Our Mother Creator made all of us in the Divine image. We are all created in the Divine image. All genders and races reflect and embody the Divine image (Genesis 1:27). Then why are all genders and all races not treated as equals in the Divine image?

Njeri Matthis Rutledge, J.D.

Recently I read an article by Njeri Matthis Rutledge, a Harvard Law School graduate and a law professor, about how she has had to “normalize” daily racism in order to survive and succeed in a white supremacist society. When a white colleague asked Professor Rutledge if she had ever personally experienced racism, she at first said “no” because she hadn’t had a life-threatening racial incident or been the victim of police abuse. But then she realized her success comes from her ability, “as a Black woman, to normalize and dismiss the racism” she faces every single day. She writes: “As a Black woman in America, I make the daily decision to either call out and challenge the routine subtle racism I experience — and as a consequence be labeled as angry — or ignore the racial cuts, pretending with a smile that the resulting wound doesn’t hurt.” She writes that she can no longer “normalize” racism, that it is unacceptable. She is reclaiming her sacred worth in the Divine image.

I found myself identifying with Professor Rutledge because I’ve had to “normalize” sexism in order to succeed in a patriarchal society. But I can’t imagine how much harder it’s been for her as she’s had to “normalize” both racism and sexism. Many years ago a reporter called to interview me for an article she was writing on sexual harassment suffered by clergywomen. When she asked if I’d ever experienced sexual harassment, I said “no.” But later I realized I’d “normalized” offensive jokes and comments and actions, that would now be called “microaggressions,” that are unacceptable. But at that time in order to survive and succeed, I just kept smiling and dismissing sexism, and kept working harder and harder to prove myself and to bring about change.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg undoubtedly had to dismiss sexism in order to survive and succeed in law school and beyond. Her personal experiences of sexism also stirred her to work for change. In the documentary film RBG when I saw the photo of her as one of 9 women in a sea of 500 men in her Harvard Law School class, I remembered the year I was the only woman chaplain intern and the only woman in the large chaplaincy department at Baylor University Medical Center, and the years I was the first and only woman chaplain at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center and one of the few women in the Waco Ministerial Alliance. RBG experienced sexism from her male classmates as well as from professors and colleagues. In spite of all the sexist words and acts she endured, she reclaimed her sacred worth and became the first person, male or female, to be a member of both the prestigious Harvard and Columbia Law Reviews.

While suffering sexism in her own life and career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought tirelessly for gender equality under the law. She argued and won five gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, including the 1996 landmark case, United States v. Virginia that ended the long-standing male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The school maintained that women were not suited to train at the academy or endure its education model.  “Neither the goal of producing citizen soldiers nor VMI’s implementing methodology is inherently unsuitable to women,” Ginsburg wrote. “Surely that goal is great enough to accommodate women, who today count as citizens in our American democracy equal in stature to men.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also fought against racism. She was a strong champion of voting rights. One of her most famous dissents came in Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court case holding that Congress could no longer enforce the Voting Rights Acts to require states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get federal approval before making changes in their voting rules. In her dissent RBG warned that voter suppression would make a return with federal voting protection gone, and that has happened. “Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake­ proofed,” she wrote, “places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.”

She also argued and won cases in support of same-sex marriage, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice. In the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case she countered the procreation argument by asking whether a 70-year-old heterosexual couple would be allowed to marry when clearly they could not procreate either.

My friend Rev. Colette Numajiri published this beautiful profile of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her “Free Sophia” blog just a week before RBG left us. Colette celebrates the sacred worth of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Divine image, and her work so that all genders and all races will be treated as equals.

Our Mother Creator made all of us in the Divine image. All genders and all races can claim our sacred worth. All genders and all races reveal Her sacred way. All genders and all races reflect Her sacred face.

Video Credits

Performed by: Katie Ketchum

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

From: Hersay: Songs for Healing and Empowerment, by Katie Ketchum & Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Artists:

Elaine Chan-Sherer: Black Madonna, Visitation, and Our Lady of Lourdes

Katie Ketchum: Guadalupe

Stacy Boorn: Black Madonna

Pam Allen: Divine Mother

David Clanton: photo of Equity for Women in the Church event at Perkins School of Theology

photo from The Gathering, A Womanist Church

two photos from Equity for Women in the Church conference at Wake Forest University School of Divinity

6 thoughts on “All Genders and Races Reclaim Our Sacred Worth: Njeri Matthis Rutledge & RBG

  1. Thank you, Paul, for your comment and for all your support of my work. Also, thank you for your book “Is It Okay to Call God ‘Mother’?”
    Love and Gratitude,

  2. Beautiful and very sad. How far we still have to go. Thank you for your prophetic chants that are sending prayers up everytime they are sung or listened to. I love the reminder of how you continued to reclaimed YOUR sacred worth with all of the sexism you’ve endured. Persistence. Thank you for sharing as well!!

  3. Thank you, Colette, for your comment and for your kind words about my work.

    And thank you for your outstanding article about RBG on!

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