Why a Race-less Life

After a conversation with a friend this week about the blog, I agreed with her that it was necessary to expound upon why I seek to live life without race.  I briefly shared with her my childhood and formative experiences in a hyper- racialized home environment.  From conception, my life has been determined by race.  My mother, a dark complexioned woman, said to me when asked why she had chosen my father, “Because he was light- skinned with good hair.”  His social appearance not his attributes were of more importance in the decision to bring another person into being.

While in college, I, like many others in my freshman class, went through the stages of racial self- awareness and ended up where most do— as a Black Nationalist.  I cut off my permed hair, learned Kiswahili and wore dashikis.  My dorm room became a museum of African art, instruments and literature.  I was “Black and proud” or at least I wanted to be.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Afro and African American studies still not realizing that black was a color not a continent.  Black is a way of being, a socially constructed experience that maintains the hierarchy of human beings for the benefit of American capitalism.  It is not an identity suited for human beings but for products.

I’ve noticed in my encounters with persons who lived through Jim Crow segregation and experienced the everyday slights that are now a part of DVD collections and Black History Month commercials, a commitment to black as a racial identity despite the social, emotional and spiritual problems that accompany it.  These persons seem to be bound to race as if it is a companion as opposed to the culprit, as if to let go of the identity will somehow erase the experience of injustice.  Race is not a witness but an accomplice.

I believe that to accept the identity of black is comparable to accepting the rationale of an abuser for his or her abuse.  It is to say that because we are black, this or that happened.  African slaves were enslaved because they were black.  The Black Codes were enacted because they were black.  The lynching of thousands of African American women, men and children occurred because they were black.  Segregation was necessary because they were black.  The continued preferential treatment of some and not others is because…

Where in these statements is the party who perpetuates these crimes against humanity held accountable?  Here, the victim of the oppression is the problem.   It is to say that this social identity is the reason for the mistreatment we receive, that if we looked different, that if we were someone else, we would be treated differently.  We make society do it.  No, in accepting the excuse of a racial identity is to not hold the abuser accountable.  I choose to live a race- less life because I no longer want to believe that the social mistreatment that I receive is my fault.

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3 thoughts on “Why a Race-less Life

  1. Your perspective is very interesting. I understand where you are coming from but I also know and understand the reality of humanbeings and the baggage that we carry.
    Although we try to look at life through a colorblind lens, we are often reminded that it is not always received. A lot of this has to do with where we live and work. My solution to the situation is to be as Christlike as I possibly can, even when I don’t feel like it. It’s an ongoing task.

  2. Starlette your post hit an interesting cord with me. We, an English/Irish/Dutch (and who knows what else) large Baptist family of 12 abused children grew up next to a Native Aamerican Reservation. I did not think of us as poor but one of my sister who is in the middle, vs I as the second and largest girl, got hand-me-downs that had seem more wear than mine, felt that we were poor. We owned land so how could we be poor? While my father was a blue collar worker in the city, we worked a small farm – at this point, primarily a fruit farm. Our father often hired people to help out during harvest time from the reservations. Often they would bring their children and we would play with them, however when it got time that we might date, we were told we should not date “the Indians or any Catholics.” Now I could normally tell a Native person by looking at him/her but I could not tell a Catholic by looking at them. Our Paternal Grandmother also extended this to Italians. When our oldest sister married an Italian Catholic we were not allowed to talk to her for years – though we were allowed to go to the wedding. I suppose it would look very bad if we didn’t. I really don’t know.

    These prohibitions however, really made me curious about race and ethnicity and yes denomination and faith differences. Twenty years after I graduated from High school – as a single mother about to be divorced from a Baptist ministers abusive son, I had the opportunity to go to college – a very elite college – on a full scholarship based on my volunteer work. One of my undergrad degrees became Cross Cultural Sociology/Anthropology because I wanted to understand the differences but YES! the commonalities that we all have.

    I strongly agree with you, and I think you know me well enough or at least of me well enough, to know that we need to look at people’s achievements rather than their differences. Look at their abilities rather than their Dis-Abilities. Look at what binds us together rather than what holds us apart. There have Black women whom I have felt closer to then my own biological sisters. People of many races have shared living space with me and I think that we are all richer for that experience. Love knows no bounds! Agape love will help heal the world if we only let us see ourselves for what is inside of us, rather than what is outside of us. It is not the ethnic language that we speak but the language of love that should be the judge of us. It is the character of our hearts and souls and actions that should be the common factor – the glue that should bind us together – it should not be the color of our skins, the way we choose to worship God, the nature of our abilities.

    We can all probably find a way in which we do not meet the criteria of someone elses standards, BUT – are we going to let that define our us? Are we going to let that determine our path? I was that tall skinny kid and my father used to pick on me about that and say that I was just the ugly duckling, I wasn’t as smart as my cousin so was considered dumb, I was from a large family in rural America and looked down upon as being one of those “farm kids” who would never amount to anything. I was not considered college material so took business couses but in the 60’s, and in the 60’s was one of 3 women in the accounting program in a business school and at that time in our history could only get a job as a clerk, not as an accountant and then married a PK who abused and belittled me. Then as a single parent – again fingers pointed at me that I was an example of what was wrong with America – that single mothers raised children who would be in trouble and abuse alcohol and drugs and we would be on welfare and sap the good people of their money. I would be the “poor white trash” that was part of what was destroying our country.

    I could have used any of a multiple excuses for not succeeding, and yet, I got a job and 20 years after graduating from high-school without a pre-college course work entered an elite college where as a single mother, who also raised a disabled fostor child, went to school full time and ended up with a dual major and a strong minor. I then went on to college and post-grad and now have a M.Div. and a D.Min. I have been a chaplain for over 20 years now and am an author of a pastoral care text, editorials and several hundrend poems. You can choose to cop out. You can choose to blame society for your lack of achievements or as Starlette has indicated, pull yourself up, not allow others to define you and strive ahead. (I do hope that was what you were trying to say and excuse this mini-sermon, please.)

    You can be successful if you choose to.

    Whew! ‘nough said!

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