“Once you go black, you don’t go back.” This is a common expression used to express the supreme relational skills and/or sexual abilities of African American men and women. It is used to suggest that there is a marked difference between socially colored black people and other socially colored people groups when it comes to relational intimacy. It is the claim that once someone of a different cultural heritage chooses to enter into a relationship with an African American male or female, that he and she will not return to dating persons of their culture. Despite the historical aversion to “race- mixing,” the attempts to dehumanize/ desexualize/ hypersexualize the socially colored black body and slavery’s impact on the African American family, this rhyme is used much like a calling card, a jingle, a commercial even. It is a display of pride, an assertion of ability despite social attempts to cast doubts and aspersions on the socially colored black body and its ability to be relational or sexual.
But, I want to pose a few different questions to this familiar phrase. What happens to our identity as God’s creatures, made in God’s sacred image and thus valuable regardless of appearance or social worth when we adopt this social identity that is race? How does our relationship with race impact our relationship with the sacred when we attempt to balance being Christian and red/ yellow/ brown/ beige/ black/ white? How does identifying with race and its allegiances challenge or change our allegiances as Christian believers? Once we go black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, can we go back to being what God has called us to be: “new creatures in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5.17) or “ambassadors of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5.18-20)?