Q: Do you feel that race prejudice in the United States is merely a symptom of a world-wide conflict?
A: Race prejudice has unfortunately become an American tradition which is uncritically handed down from one generation to the next. The only remedies are enlightenment and education. This is a slow and painstaking process in which all right- thinking people should take part.
Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, Einstein on Race and Racism, “Interview with Cheyney Record” (October 1948)
A Jew born in Ulm Germany on March 14, 1879, Albert Einstein is the American image of genius. He is the author of the Special Theory of Relativity and the mathematical genius who discovered that matter and energy are different forms of the same thing and created the well- known formula e=mc². What he is less well- known for is his friendship with Paul Robeson, his stance on lynching in America, his participation in the anti-lynching crusade and his views on race and racism.
Einstein is also a coach of mine on this pilgrimage to race-lessnesss and I am developing a formula of my own. He said to William Miller in an interview printed by Life magazine on May 2, 1955, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Einstein say to Otto Juliusburger in 1942, “People like you and I, though mortal of course, like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live. What I mean is that we never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery in to which we were born.” It encourages me to know that there is perhaps a reason why I do not uncritically accept the traditions of racism and the belief in race, that my curiosity as to our blind allegiance to race has purpose and meaning. There is a reason for my curiosity and I won’t stop questioning the purpose of race in the life of the Christian believer. And as an added bonus, this curiosity will help me maintain my youthful appearance!
I agree with Einstein that the dismantling of race prejudice and for me, race requires enlightenment and education. I know this to be true as this work requires a lot of reading and all of the words are not friendly towards persons who are socially defined as black. It is often difficult to read the stories of hatred. Still, it is necessary to know the source of race. In order to dismantle it, you must go to the root of it and I plan to shake its foundation. I want to see the walls of the social category of race come tumbling down. It is the social mountain that I want cast into the sea. Race is the Jericho wall that I will walk around for as long as it takes because I believe that it will come down.
The most troubling thing has been the discovery that those walls have been built up inside of me. Oh, wretched woman that I am! Often it seems that the very thing that I seek to rid myself of is often present with me. Ridding myself of race will shake the very foundations of me and I welcome the new position. Besides, my coach says, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”
What of your self maintains the positions of race and the practices of racism? What do you think of race? What is the nature of your relationship with it? Why is the tradition handed down year after year, generation after generation? What are we to make of its utility in our lives as believers? These questions are for all right-thinking people. The source of race prejudice is our belief in race. Its hierarchical ranking and social ordering is a source of world-wide conflict. Our delivery from race will be slow and painstaking but its a walk in the direction of freedom. We move forward not with our feet but by our questions. Take a step today.