“For in him, we live, move and have our being.”
~ The Acts of the Apostles 17.28
Why is race so successful? Why is it so convincing, so engrained, so entrenched in who we are? Why is it so difficult to dig it up and to root it out of us? Why do we have such a hard time getting rid of race and racism? Why can’t we just let it go? Why do we defend its definition of us even when it is degrading and positions us beneath that of another human being? Why do we stand by its truths even when it attempts to make a lie out of all that God says is possible to those who believe? And most importantly, why is it more important to be black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige than Christian? These are just a few of the questions that I often ask myself.
While I understand how race and the practice of racism came to be, I do not understand why persons who are aware and agree that it is a social construct continue to live by its rules. Why do we continue to turn to race as the principal identifier and indicator of who we are, what we believe in, where our interests lie and who we believe others to be? Why, after confessing Christ as our Lord and Savior, do we then submit ourselves again to the yoke of racism? Why do we return to its social truths again and again? I simply do not understand how Christ’s Church convinced herself that Christianity and racism could walk together (Amos 3.3).
Perhaps, I believe that it is because we are afraid. Maybe that’s too kind and a bit easier on the ears. While we are cowardly when it comes to self- discovery, we are also lazy and ignorant. And this is a fruitless combination. We do not have the energy to look inside of ourselves and if we did, we would not know what we were looking for, what should be there and what should not or why. Why don’t we pursue ourselves, chase after the self that lies deep within? Why are we so afraid of who God has created us to be?
I believe it is because getting to know who we truly are is not at the top of our list. Despite our desire for a more spiritual life, knowing the self intimately is not a priority. Instead, we spend much of our time becoming what others say that we ought to be, adjusting the sound of us so that we are heard by those who are deemed most important in our society, changing the appearance of us so that we are visible to those whose eyes matter most. Ah, but to know me! It is my sincere desire. I don’t want to live this life having never met myself.
I suppose that imitation is easier and less time- consuming. We know how this image or that one looks and how we will be received. We have observed it and taken note of the reactions of others at its appearance. It is easily accessible, reproducible and supported by our media and markets. We have bought into it and so we buy it. It comes in our size and we can try it on in the privacy of a dressing room or stand in front of our bathroom mirror.
They say that it is “the highest form of flattery.” But, what does our imitating racism and its caricatures say about us? If it is the highest flattery for race, surely it is the lowest insult to us and to who God has created us to be.
And why can’t we wait? Why can’t we wait on ourselves to become? Why can’t we wait for the identity that is tailor- made for us before trying on a race? Why are we in such a rush? Do we not want to wait to be measured, afraid of what will be found lacking? Do we not want to wait because of the awkward growth spurts of our own development? Are we afraid of our own maturation?
Yes, imitation allows us to fit in but what of ourselves is left out? Who are we leaving behind when we take on a racial identity? Why do we believe that a racial identity is an expression of God’s creative power, that it somehow fits into the will of God for our lives?
Imitation costs us nothing. Instead, its appearance is embarrassing proof that we did not take the time, that we did not sit quietly and wait for our selves to come along. No, we picked up the first thing that caught our eye or worse, the eye of another. It did not matter the reason for their interest or attraction. We just wanted to be seen but what is really being seen?
What is really being seen if we spend our lives hiding behind the opinions that others have of us, hiding behind social expectations, hiding behind our racial identity? Don’t be afraid of becoming. Come out. Come out. Wherever you are.