“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
~ Romans 3.23
This week, I continue to ponder this notion of all. The assertion that we can know everything about someone based on their racial grouping (which should not be confused with culture as the two are not synonymous), that we can predict the education and subsequent occupation, that we can prejudge the motivations and aspirations, that we can know a person’s past, present and future, that we can determine the influence and authority of a person— based solely on his and her social coloring. Unconsciously, we believe in the omniscience of race, in its omnipresence and omnipotence. Race can know all and do all and be in all places just like… the God that we confess to serve.
And we, like race, also claim these abilities in our opinions and mental designations of persons we don’t know but have seen. Race, this system of social coloring, pretends to give us a super-human ability to assess millions of people at one time based on one person and/or one experience with a person who may or may not be a member of the socially assigned group. All based on one.
One is a small number for such a broad stroke of the social paintbrush. One experience will cause a sweeping pronouncement over all the persons who “look” like him or her. One theft will make all thieves. One lie will make all liars (e.g. African Americans have been referred to as “a race of liars.”). And there are positive stereotypes if there can be such. One leader will make all leaders or presumed born to rule. The image of one (kind of) pretty face will make all beautiful. All based on one.
But, what crimes will go unpunished because of the social description of the appearance of evil? This was often the question during the time of mob lynchings as hundreds of innocent African American men, women and children were murdered for crimes that they did not commit. What truths will go unheard due to the societal image of honesty? What steps will we not take because of our limited vision of a leader? What splendor will we forfeit because it did not come in the color socially accepted?
What has been lost in our belief in all? What have we not pursued? Where did we not go? Who did we not talk to? How did we perceive ourselves in the presence of the perception of all?
The truth of the matter remains that we are incapable of such ability or knowledge; our finiteness prevents its possession and our immaturity restricts its practice. And when we live as if we possess it, we ultimately lose more than we pretend to have gained. Only God knows us all and only God has the ability to be precise and exact even in His generality. God says that we all have sinned and this is not a stereotype.
2 thoughts on “Be Specific (Part II)”
Rev. Starlette: Your writing creates opportunities to both reflect on and correct certain thought-patterns and behaviors. Thanks for giving your voice to this effort.
Taken from your writing – “…that we can determine…based solely on his and her social coloring”. I think the problem of race is not that determinations are based on one’s social coloring. The problem is that determinations are made based on issues with God’s coloring. Society does not provide one with hue, complexion, tone or otherwise; this is God’s perfect doing. Society does, however, provide a response to what is seen and/or known. What seems like a mere rewording of your statement drives to the heart of the race “issue” and strikes at the basis of many self-made problems. Simply, we/society do not like what God has done and try to conform His intent to match our level of comfort. As a result, as you said ” we ultimately lose more than we pretend to have gained”.
Thank you for your response, Minister Robertson and for running with me at The Daily Race! I think you have already figured out that I have a very different perspective on race and subsequently, color. I don’t believe in colored people, that is black, white, red, yellow, and now beige people, those of a mixed ethnicity. I don’t believe that God created us as such, that it was as important as we have made it to be. I think that you would agree that no one is physically any of these colors though we have invested much of our lives in their meanings, which then begs the question, at least for me, “What do we really mean when we refer to ourselves as ‘colored people’ of any hue?” For me, color does not point to the source of me and does more to limit the full vision of my God-given personhood. My position is a work in progress but I am certain of this, there is something more to humanity and the meaning of our existence and we will not come to this awareness through racial identity formation. I hope to write more on the subject of color in a future post. Thanks again for reading and for your comment. Keep them coming!