Last week, I wrote about why the church doesn’t talking about race. I listed the excuses that we make, which include: “It’s too hard.” “It’s too sad.” “It’s been too long.” And, “I didn’t do it.”
Talking about the end of anything, whether good or bad, can be difficult. It can even cause anxiety as we are uncertain as to how things will be once this experience is no longer available or that person is gone. Though race causes an unusual and avoidable amount of pain, many of us cannot see ourselves apart from it. We do not want to even entertain the thought and often say that race will be with us forever.
We would rather confess that race is eternal than admit our unhealthy dependence on this social construct. Establishing it as eternal makes it immovable and untouchable, which releases us from the responsibility to respond or act. But, race is not natural and it never belonged to us or with us.
And it is not eternal as it has a beginning and an end. It is not heavenly or ethereal but as temporal as the flesh that it attempts to define. So, why is it so hard to talk about the end of race?
1. It’s hard because it’s painful. We don’t want to admit it but race has hurt us, those we love and could have, should have loved. Leaving would force us to acknowledge its wounds and that can prove difficult, even debilitating.
2. It’s hard because it’s time- consuming. We’ve made race so much of who we are and included its progeny in every part of our lives. It will take a lot of time to figure out where we start and race ends. Untangling ourselves from the ways of race is hard work. Freedom is hard work.
3. It’s hard because it’s personal. Race gets under our skin because it’s talking about our skin, the closest thing to us. And it can be difficult to face something that we trusted and now find has tricked us and caused us to much torment.
4. It’s hard because it requires change. We know that race is not good for us but we are “creatures of habit” and we have made race very comfortable in a strange kind of way. It will require a change in perspective, language, expectations and outcomes.
5. It’s hard because it’s ritual, habit, routine. We have been racial beings, socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people. We don’t know how else to be seen or that there should be another option and that’s it’s better and true. It is the only way we know so it is hard to believe that there is another.
6. It’s hard because it is supported by society and the Church. It’s hard to go against the culture and a system of beliefs. It is difficult to go against time and time- honored traditions and customs. Questions arise: “Who will we share this new life with? Will I be understood? Who will I belong to?”
7. It’s hard because it is misunderstood. We believe in race and we don’t know why. We look at our skin and say, “Okay. I accept.” But, our acceptance of race is not informed by researched knowledge, science or Scripture. God never called us a race of people. We have always been His children.
8. It’s hard because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Race is about pride: pride in ourselves to the misery of others.
9. It’s hard because it’s sinful. We do all sorts of things in the name of race and feel that it is an exception to God’s rule, that we get a pass, that there is a loophole in the law of God’s love. But, race does not trump grace or mercy, forgiveness or reconciliation. It applies to all persons no matter their appearance or socially assigned difference. We don’t get to sin against persons or ourselves because of race.
10. It’s hard because it’s hard to say, “Good bye.” But, let me help you with this one: post- racial. Good bye.