“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
~ First John 1.5-7, NRSV
Many persons find it difficult to believe in a post- racial America. It is hard to comprehend or consider it possible partly because we cannot conceive of life before race. But, race is not a creator; it cannot and did not create human life though it often dictates how we live it.
We have so saturated our thinking and way of being with the social construct of race that even our God is racialized, socially colored in and controlled by the will of race. And unable to see an end without race, we have racialized our beginning. But, in the beginning, race was not. Race was not before God or even with God. Race has only been with us.
This is easy for me to say because like those who feel they were born to sing or act or teach, I believe that I was born to proclaim a message– a race-less one. It is as easy and as natural as warming up my vocal cords, rehearsing lines or writing a lesson plan. It is what I most enjoy doing and what easily comes to mind no matter how monotonous or routine the day. Ways to strip race of its authority are my constant consideration whether while washing the dishes or reading the Bible. Just as persons cannot understand life or live without race, I cannot comprehend life or find value with it.
It is to live life under an umbrella, always expecting a storm, a torrential downpour. Life is always cloudy with a chance of rain when race is around. No matter what is going on in our world, race always has something to do with it and it usually isn’t good. A racialized life is not a walk in the light but a life lived in darkness.
And seeing as though I was born in the “Sunshine State,” this is just not the life for me and with a name like Starlette, it is hard to do anything except shine. When I was in college, I would close my emails with the signature, “Destined to Shine Light, The Star.” Who I am is what I do.
But, your name doesn’t have to be Starlette in order to walk in the light. If you are a believer, then you are called to. It is where God is and who God is and how God is. In Him, there is no darkness at all.
We can step out of the shadows of race when we are ready to step away from its history of darkness, its predictable pattern of hurt, anger, blame and unforgiveness. The darkness can be a scary place but if it is all that we know, if it is the only familiar place that we recognize, then groping can become a way of life. We can get used to feeling our way through. Basing our lives on the sensations of our flesh can become normal.
But God is not in the darkness because God is light– not light- skinned or dark- skinned. God’s message and distinction between light and dark is not about the external (i.e. skin) but the internal (i.e. our soul’s condition). We must be filled with light and not the darkness of prejudice, stereotypes, historical anger and generational hatred. Consequently, there are no dark and light, no black and white (or any other socially colored) people. These lies and others like it prevent our fellowship with one another and with God.
We must walk in the light and in so doing, walk with God. But, it will require us to walk away from race. The two do not agree so they cannot walk together (cf. Amos 3.3). God is not dark/ness; consequently, none of those created in His image are dark or representative of darkness (whether historical oppressor or oppressed). Stepping out of the shadows will require us to allow God’s light to shine on us, to reveal and remove all that we have experienced that both gives us power and makes us powerless.
It will also allow us to take center stage in our lives, stepping out of the shadow of race. We are more important than race and have meaning apart from and without its addition. If we were ever truly honest with ourselves, we would confess that we are but a shadow of ourselves because of race. This racialized life is an inauthentic awareness, a less than full experience of life, always lacking in one way or another, never fully satisfying who we are or who we feel called to be.
God’s light will hurt our eyes and we will need time to adjust but it can become our new normal. We can live a race-less life. We simply cannot live in the shadows of race and proclaim to be children of light. This I know to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.