“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” ~Friedrich Neitzsche
Race is a monster. It’s not like the ones that hide under our beds or in our closets. Its features are not ghastly though it has been known to make its victims appear such. Race is not fire breathing though for me at least, it seems to destroy everything that it comes into contact with. Like most monsters, it has never been seen as it is but a figment of our imagination or at least those who have witnessed the appearance of race have never lived to tell it. What do I mean? Well, Emmett Till for example. He saw this monster. The image of the hand of hatred etched on his fourteen year old swollen and beaten body.
His was the first that I learned when reading the scary stories about race. There were others but this one stood out because he was a child. It was enough to keep me awake at night, afraid that I too would be awakened from my sleep, taken from my home and never seen alive again. I spent much of my early years chasing these ghosts. Some wore sheets while others did not. But, there were days when I wanted to pull the bedsheets over my head. I was becoming a monster, my life lurking in the shadows afraid of what these racialized boogie men and women might do to me. I was always on the defensive now, having only heard the stories.
I have read the words of race and looked at its images for years now. While in college, my defense from this monster was Black Nationalism; however, while in seminary, I began to wrestle with its principles. I couldn’t carry Christ’s message coupled with a belief in racial separation from those who were certainly my kindred as God’s children. I am aware that many others have carried both though I would argue unsuccessfully for how can one be a witness of God’s unconditional love and acceptance while harboring the belief in racial supremacy? Black Nationalism had made socially colored white people monsters, devils even.
It had placed evil in an entire population, making our encounters spooky, our lives lived fearfully, reverentially toward race. Race and its black and white supremacies made life’s meaning abysmal. Race was creating a chasm within me, a distance between self- love and neighborly love that was growing wider each day. I had been looking at race but now it was looking at me, mulling me over, sizing me up, preying on me. Its presence had become monstrous and this view had I kept it, would have swallowed me up.