“You took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. Since you put away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor because we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.”
Most often, when persons write about race or racism, it is from the perspective of one who believes in it. The writer, a family member or maybe a close friend has been mistreated on the basis of race. Or, they have heard a story of someone who has experienced prejudice or been stereotyped. Such is the power and ability of race; it does not have to personally involve you in order for you to be impacted. It doesn’t take much for you or I to begin to imagine what would have happened if it had been us. Or, the new story reminds us of our own run in with race. We retell it and in doing so, we relive it. We employ our tongues in our revictimization.
“They wouldn’t have done this to me if I were black/white/red/yellow/brown/beige,” we say. Much like being in the wrong place at the wrong time, we argue that we were the wrong social color. It happened because of who we are and so, it is our fault. “If only I looked differently, this would not have happened to me.” We blame ourselves for what race does to us and for how it makes us feel. We are ashamed of our appearance because it is associated with mistreatment. Our bodies become targets and so, we hide in society in hopes that no one will see us and consequently, attack us.
And the imagined necessity of this position makes us angry. We are mad at God for creating us this way, angry with ourselves for our inability to change. We are mad at this group or the other and have enough blame to go around and “down through the years.” We have reasons to be angry about any point in American history, its present or future in matters that involve race. Year after year, month after month, day after day, the story of injustice, power imbalances, wealth gaps and mistreatment is told. The sun goes up and the sun goes down and still, we are angry.
But, what of race and our agreement with it? In what ways have we been complicit, accomplices even in the plan of race? Are there times when our lives go along with it, that we would be found guilty of holding the same opinions of others– even those who have hurt us? We have sinned in our anger– hating, killing, lying all in the name of race. And it is because we agree with race. We find a degree, a measure of truth in the assertions of race: that some are better than others, that one group is above all others and perhaps, it is our acceptance of this racial reality, our believing that this is true that makes us angry.
So, I propose that we turn our anger toward race, that we rid ourselves of this relationship as it is no good for us, our faith or society. Get angry, really angry at race. Don’t allow it to prevent you from forming or continuing relationships. Don’t get mad at yourself because of what its stereotypes say about you, turn against yourself and become your own enemy. Don’t allow its predeterminations to become your self- doubts. Draw a line and don’t allow yourself to be pushed to the margins of your own reality. Get mad at race for the last time and before the sun goes down.