Reporting Live For Race

Standing in my bathroom, looking into the mirror as if before millions of viewers and holding a hair brush in my hand, sometimes I want to say, “Good morning. I am Starlette McNeill. This week in race news…” At least for me, it seems that this is how many of our conversations should begin as we are merely reporting the incidents of the day, telling the stories of the serial social or legal crimes of race. And it’s always happening, always apart of some grand racial conspiracy, always pointing back to a historical arrangement between us and them.

“Be sure to check your movie ticket to ensure that they gave you the right one. They are trying to ensure that Red Tails does not do well in the theaters.” Arizona governor Jan Brewer puts her hand in President Obama’s face on an airplane tarmac, saying that she felt “threatened” while maintaining that the President is “thin-skinned”, implying that he was unable to handle her criticism. Race’s interpretation according to several Facebook users: Susan Smith. Brewer was simply blaming a social defined “black” man for her poor behavior. However, President Obama, when asked about the incident, commented that is was being “blown out of proportion” and “I think it’s always good publicity for a Republican if they’re in an argument with me. But this was really not a big deal.” For him, the one on the tarmac whose face Brewer’s finger was in, it was about politics not race. Still, there are those who would argue that she wouldn’t have done if he were “white.” But, according to race, isn’t he both? First Lady Michelle Obama says to CBS’s Gayle King that she is tired of the angry black woman stereotype after the release of Jodi Kantor’s book The Obamas depicts her involvement with the White House staff as contentious. Mrs. Obama says, “And that’s why I don’t read these books. … It’s a game, in so many ways, that doesn’t fit. Who can write about what I feel? What third person can tell me what I feel?”  For Mrs. Obama, it’s a game and she is simply tired of playing it.

“Just after the break, we will be back with a story from Lilburn, Georgia where the students at Camp Creek Elementary School play what they call ‘the slave game.‘ It is the second incident of its kind. Parents in Norcross, Georgia weeks back were upset after word problems using the language of slavery and more disturbingly, beatings were given to students.” If I simply reported for race, it would be one endless news cycle of hate, ignorance, nationalistic pride and unconsciousness. I shudder to think of the commercials that would follow.

And these stories may reflect our reality but it is the reality that we have created. They are truths about our society.  But, race does not determine or influence God’s reality or truth and herein lies the difference. Race is not divine and neither is its ability or reach. Unlike the truth of God and the truth that we can experience through His Son, Jesus Christ, the reality and social truths of race are not liberating but binding. Stereotypes and prejudices are binding truths. The social coloring of our skin is a binding truth. Neo-segregation (i.e. gentrification) is a binding truth.

It is a racial contract. “Sign your life over to race here and here.” This is why we say things like “Black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people don’t do that.” “We don’t marry them.” “We can’t live there.” It is contractual language. It is what we have agreed upon, having made a deal with race.

Race scripts our lives: “We don’t say that.” “We don’t talk like that.”  “We don’t sound like that.” We can only say what race tells us to say, when and how race tells us to say it.

I ripped up that contract a long time ago. How can they call themselves black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige if they haven’t been told that they are? How can they believe in race if they have not heard about it? And how can they hear about race unless we tell them? We don’t need more reporters of race; we need more interpreters sent from God. Who are you reporting live for?

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