“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
~ Romans 12.3, NRSV
Race has two extremes when it comes to identity: oppressed/ slave/ inferior and oppressor/ master/ superior. There is no in between. We are either in or out, on the top or the bottom, powerful or powerless.
And the two don’t mix. In order for the identities to maintain their stature and meaning, we cannot reconcile. We cannot unite. We have separate racial identities that must be segregated. But, Paul writes to the church at Galatia: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3.28).
Consequently, when we accept a racial identity while claiming to be believers in Christ Jesus, we start a tug of war within us. Race says, “Separate” and Christ says, “Come together.” Unfortunately, we practice prejudice and in so doing, choose our racial identity, reject our new position in Christ and fellowship with other believers.
When we accept the social coloring of skin as the means by which we are identified, we have not discovered who we are. The search is not over when we agree that we are socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige. Instead, such a decision suggests that we don’t want to go any deeper than what persons can see.
A racial identity is superficial, simplistic and static. We don’t really go anywhere when we describe ourselves as racial beings. Instead, we receive and approve what someone else has decided will define us.
Some will say, “Well, just look at you. Your skin color is ________ so you are _______. That’s just the way it is.” But such a mindset says that you are stuck, that you are stuck with what society says about you and there is nothing that you or God can do about it. This is simply not true. God is not limited by race and God does not define us by it.
We must not spend our lives becoming who race says that we are but who God says that we are. We must take back our power to define ourselves and not lean on the understandings of race. It is not that race already has us but that we give ourselves to it. We don’t put up a fight but give in to race’s conclusions about us. We surrender ourselves to race before we realize the importance of the fight for the authentic self.
We will not recover ourselves in steps or in stages. Our self- recovery begins in our minds. We must change the way that we think about race and change our minds about race. We must consider life without it. We must think racelessly. Then and only then will we begin to turn and return to our true selves.