Oftentimes, it seems that we would rather celebrate the self- discoveries of others rather than to seek and find the treasures within our respective identities. This truth is evident in our celebrity- driven culture where teenagers and adults alike live vicariously through musical artists, actors/actresses and popular sports figures. Their songs become our mantras, their careers become our dreams and their successes become our own. In some strange way, our knowing them, though limited to and filtered through various media outlets, makes us feel popular, beautiful, self- aware, talented and accomplished.
Likewise, we celebrate the claims and names of generations past because it is easier than making our own. It is easier to simply repeat what others say than to wait for our own unique perspective to emerge as self- definition is hard work. But, I concur with Gandhi that “to think independently for oneself is a sign of fearlessness.” And our time is nothing to be afraid of. It is not against us but for us, even if we feel that we must redeem it. The inability to see as Audre Lord the need to define ourselves for ourselves cannot be overstated.
This is most troubling for me when it comes to race as we live vicariously through its colors. Its meanings become our life’s definition, its power becomes our privilege and its vision for humanity becomes our sight. Our belief in race, though its origin and purpose have been redefined over time, provides a superficial membership and belonging, a pseudo awareness, perception and understanding of ourselves and our neighbor and a reality that does more to eat away at our humanity than to enhance it. Still, due to fear, indifference, or ignorance, we would rather accept the racialized life given to us than to discover for ourselves the life that God has for us.
But, race is NOT our creator. We are not people of color but people of God. We are not created in the image of race. We are not a byproduct of race, helplessly tied to the social predestinations of social colors. Our meaning and purpose is not linked to our appearance: the social coloring of our skin, the texture of our hair, the size of our lips, the color of our eyes. It is not our source or the substance of our humanity.
Race is NOT real but a part of the social imagination, a cruel and twisted fantasy that has its roots in greed and a lust for power. A generous benefactor, it often funds hysteria and paranoia. It is the unbelievable lie that we choose to accept, unable to detach ourselves from it though it separates us from God’s reality.
Race is NOT divine. It possesses no supernatural ability, has no overarching, consummate purpose for humanity. It is not morally above us neither beneath us as the foundation of our existence. It has no true creative authority as it can only re-create. Race is NOT omniscient. It knows only what we do not know about ourselves and thrives in our inexperience and ignorance. It only knows us best because we choose only to believe the worst about ourselves. Thus, it does not know best and it does not know all. Race is NOT omnipresent. It is only present where we allow it entry and access. Race is most present when we are most absent, choosing not to participate in our lives. It is escapable and cannot be found in every incident of mistreatment or abuse. It is not in all places at all times but can be avoided. Race is NOT omnipotent. It does not have all power but instead gains its power and influence from us. We are the body of race, its hands and feet, mouth and ears, heart and mind. It cannot exist without us.
Race is NOT self- existent or self- evident. Race is not an internal reality; it does not possess or inhabit us. We are not born seeing through a racial lens. It is a social prescription given to us. And we embody it, its beliefs and behaviors. It cannot live a part from us as it did not create itself. It is not Alpha and Omega, not eternal but having a beginning and thus an end.
We must not leave the discovery of our true ourselves in the hands of race neither should we live our lives through it. There is more to life and to us. Race is NOT right about any of us.