I’ve been attracted to the story of race and its characters since I was about twelve years old. My interest is not reactionary, a response to a slur or a derogatory comment meant to degrade or to cause me to question my presence in the world. Instead, it began in a classroom with my introduction to the slave narratives and later, the social arrangements that would continue the color- coded existences of the groups that would become black and white people as we know them today. My fascination has grown and with it my library to include all things racial. I also collect racial memorabilia: dolls, postcards, pictures and the like. Race remains a consistent fascination and until about five years ago, I was comfortable with its existence.
This is not to say that the attraction was indicative of affection, being “black and proud” always seemed like an oxymoron. But, I accepted it as a way of life and did not think that my interest in race would lead to my desire to rid myself of it. Like most days, today, I am sifting through my experiences to uncover any racialized thought that would restrict my understanding of faith and its practice in the actualization of my identity.
The answer is so obvious that it is almost disheartening. The commandments. Yes, race challenges my practice of the commandments and I am certain that I am not the only one who struggles with their application in light of prejudice and stereotypes or who compromises out of cynicism, laziness or pride. So, I thought that I would reflect on what the ten commandments of race would be.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before race. Thou shalt live through me and have no authentic relationship besides the one shared with me.
2. Thou shalt subject the image of humanity to me. All must be seen racially. Carve up their images. Divide them into colors and deface their originality for I am the only original. No one stands out but me for I am a jealous god.
3. Use my name in vain. I belong in every interaction and incident. Attribute it all to me.
4. Remember whiteness, to keep it holy for I have given you other races to labor in the earth and for you to dominate. Or, remember blackness, to keep it pure and unstained for you are the “original people.” (Note: These commandments are subject to change depending on my audience.)
5. Honor only those who “look” like you and their words alone for there are “races of liars” among us.
6. Thou shalt kill in the name of your race in order to maintain its purity because you have been chosen to dominate the world. I made the earth just for you and I only have a plan for you. All other human beings are extras and trial runs.
7. Thou shalt not engage in intermarriage with the opposite culture. This is racial adultery.
8. Thou shalt steal because it rightfully belongs to you, because “they” stole it from you, because “they” don’t deserve to have it, because “they” have too much of it.
9. Thou shalt bear false witness against any cultural group based on stereotypes and prejudices.
10. Thou shalt covet thy neighbor’s appearance and associate her and his possessions and position with my blessing or curse.