“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
~ Philippians 4.8, NRSV
“We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
~ Second Corinthians 10.4-5, NRSV
I often wonder when you look at me or her or him or “us” or “them,” what are you looking for, hoping to find or imagine will happen? What do you expect will be the result of our meeting that makes you look down or “up, up and away”? What are you hoping to avoid in not making eye contact with me?
What did racism say to you about me? I assure you that it’s not true. At least allow me to provide my side of the story. “I’m not black and I’m not angry. I don’t see you as the enemy and I am not your latest victim. I don’t believe that you are ‘The Man’ or ‘The Woman.’ You’re not holding me back or down or under your foot. I don’t believe that God is made in your image or that God favors you over me because of the social coloring of skin. I don’t know if your ancestors enslaved mine. I’ve never been sold and I don’t believe that your are in the business of buying human slaves. I’m not a fan of large bodies of water so I’ve never been on a ship and I don’t suspect that you own a whip. Consequently, I am not seeking reparations or an apology.” Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, “Hello. My name is Starlette. And you are?”
Our belief in race and our practice of racism do not allow us to begin the conversation without the baggage of American history and an assortment of assumptions that do more to delay the arrival of truth. We are so busy planning for attack that we are always on the defensive, so ensnared by our own prejudicial thoughts that it is difficult to look at a person without becoming tangled up in them. It’s a burden just to say, “Hello.”
Surely, I am not invisible but race did prevent you from seeing that we, those socially defined as black which I now represent for you (Oh, the pressure!), are not all the same and yet we, those creatures divinely described as “good,” are. We know nothing about each other save our interpretations. Still, the conclusions and the lines are drawn in a matter of milliseconds, the wall erected, the response rehearsed: ignore. And it all happened in your mind. So, why won’t you look at me? What are you thinking?