Like you, I inherited the identity that comes with the social construct of race and also the burden of its life and history. Initially, I accepted it. I didn’t know of any other option or way of being so I learned about being black.
I read books and watched documentaries on Black history. I took classes and specialized in African American studies. But, while I appreciated and honored the story, I never could make peace with the word. Black.
My awakening and subsequent liberation came by way of a question: “Do I have to be black?” And the answer was, “No.” I am viewed as a black person but I don’t have to see myself this way. I am treated like a black person but I don’t have to handle myself in this way. Race does not have to inform how I understand myself or determine how I manage my life.
Because there is an unfathomable distance between who society says that I am and who God created me to be. I have spent many years now peeling back the layers of lies, most of them are the same. Each year, the falsehoods have become easier to identify but this does not make the work any easier. I get tired of the motion as there seems to be no end.
Still, the truth that I am race-less must not only be acknowledged or repeated but practiced. This truth must be lived out. I must make it visible. I must give it voice.
And in so doing, I remove the hands unseen that attempt to mold me into who we have been and the way we should be. I deny race the right to practice on my life; it’s license is not real.
To be sure, stereotypes are a collection of people’s assumptions. Prejudices are but pride and fear extended to keep others at a distance. The social construct of race is nothing more than life lived from the mouth of human beings versus that of God. The continued existence and acceptance of race is evidence of our fear of being children of God and likewise, becoming a family.
The race-less life allows the Hands that held me first to lead my being and to lead me into being, new and original, personal and mine alone (Psalm 139.13-14). An identity rooted in race is but the process of social formation. But, it is not a genesis; it is no beginning but the end of me. I come to a conclusion here.
It is not the fullest expression but the summary of me and most of the details are not mine but a collection of others mixed together. It is not me at all. It is what is thought of me. It is what is believed about me… socially. It is an identity created by the people and for the people, which is not to be confused with in service to God.
I am so glad that I don’t have to be black, that I have a say in who I am and will be, that race does not speak for me, that its hands did not touch me first. What about you? Who were you before race?