A Life Lived In Comparison

“Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ~ Exodus 20.17, HCSB

“All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.” ~ I Corinthians 15.39, KJV

“For where envy and selfish ambition exist there is disorder and every kind of evil.” ~ James 3.16, HCSB

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

 ~ Philippians 2.3, HCSB

“Just be grateful for what you got,” my mother would often say to us as children. It was her response whether we were arguing about whose school clothes looked better or who received more of a favorite dish. Though the clothing didn’t come in the offended’s size and the portions were not preferential but based on our growing needs, it was still desired. Feeling as if we were now lacking a sense of style or being cheated of a complete culinary experience, we would not enjoy and could not be grateful for what had been given. In fact, we sometimes no longer wanted what we had received or suddenly didn’t feel well and were unable to eat once we compared our portion to that of another sibling’s. We couldn’t just be grateful for the clothing or the food that had been selected and prepared with us in mind.

In like manner, I had been unable to see and receive with a grateful heart what the Divine Parent had lovingly prepared for me. I was too busy comparing my appearance and life situation to that of socially colored white people. I thought that they looked better and had been given more than me.  I was told and came to believe that all socially colored white people had more than me, that their social position, not matter the title,  was and would always be higher than mine. Their power was greater than mine. And I was constantly reminded of our differences.

When talking about crime, employment, education, disease and health, poverty and wealth, faith and suffering, socially colored black and white people are often compared to each other in order to communicate new information. “A new study shows that blacks are more likely to experience violence, contract HIV and AIDS, have diabetes, develop high blood pressure, drop out of high school, not go to college, become pregnant as a teenager, and get divorced than whites.” “On average, for every dollar that a white person earns, a black person only makes seventy- four cents.” “Blacks are hit harder.” “Blacks are targeted.” “Blacks are faring worse.” These words serve to re-traumatize and inspire resentment. These reports, claims and findings keep the wounds fresh and the injustices new. These repetitions keep African Americans dissatisfied with their lives, striving for the appearance and possessions of another sibling.

These socially colored white and black lives are discussed side by side. Information about both groups is communicated in contrast. But, how often had our commonalities, our oneness been expressed?  We have been defined by comparison. We are assessed and defined based on our differences.

Consequently, I couldn’t just be grateful for what I got because I was being told that the look and life of socially colored white people was better. No matter what I wore, they would always look better. Despite what I gained, it would appear that they had more.  And day after day, I was being told that my life fared worse than that of socially colored white people. I would experience more pain, illness, crime, and disappointment. How do you prepare for such a prophecy? I would reject myself; push it back to the Creator and say, “I want what they have. Make me like them. They look better. They have more.” I had no appetite for life or a desire to live it if it was not the life of socially colored white people.

This is how they became my measurement and my mirror. I found myself to be unattractive because I did not look like them. I thought that I was ignorant because I did not think like them. I hated my appearance, especially my hair, because it was not straight and long like these socially colored white people. Like— this little preposition had produced so much self- hatred, disillusionment and discontent within me. I believed in an almost mythical sort of way that socially colored white people were so very different from me. I had forgotten that we came from the same loving Parent who knew us better than we knew ourselves and the fight had gone on so long that I had forgotten that we were siblings who sat at the same table. This is what race has done to us. We would never come together because we were constantly being placed side by side in judgment.

Blackness is a life lived in comparison and is often the antonym for whiteness. Because if you’re white, you’re right. You’re the right person for the job. You’re in the right place and in the right position. You’re right on time. You are the answer. If you’re black, get back. Get back in line. Get to the end of the line.  Stay in your place.  Get away. Go away.

You cannot be socially colored black and not feel inferior, apologetic for your presence or angry about the unearned and unjust social position of socially constructed white people. Likewise, you cannot be socially colored white and not feel superior, privileged and not practice racism.  In fact, if one’s worldview and subsequent perspectives are shaped, informed and governed by race, then she or he (whether socially colored white/ black/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige) is a racist. Race begets racism and its progeny. We cannot maintain a system and subsequent identities that define one cultural group as better than the other while hoping to eliminate racism. Race perpetuates inequality and preferential treatment.

I had spent much of my life looking in the plate of another. I had not taken the time to examine my own, to taste of its holdings and to nourish my life. I wasn’t even interested in what had been prepared for me. And I was so concerned about the appearance of socially colored white people that I had ignored and later dismissed my own. I was like the Gentiles that Paul talked about in a letter to the Romans who had worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1.25). I didn’t want to be made in the image of God. I wanted to look like these socially constructed white people.

So now what fellowship does race have with Christianity? What partnership can exist between them? I surmise that race is an enemy of Christ and the cross. A belief in race is heretical, antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its practice is an abomination before God. I don’t have to compete for God’s love because there is enough for everyone. God didn’t create socially colored white people and say, “They are better (than).”  In fact, when I was created, God didn’t compare me to anyone.

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