Race is small talk when discussing our humanity. Focusing on the texture of our hair, the shape of our eyes and the social coloring of our skin is comparable to talking about the weather and the menu. While we do introduce ourselves based on our appearance, looking at the physical appearance as a means of getting know them is pointless. We would not look at someone’s disability and begin there. “Hi. I see that you are blind.”
So, why look at the size of someone’s lips and venture to place a value on their person. This smacks of American slavery, the selling of human beings and the discounting of relationships because our appearances do not match. It is a habit that must be undone but it will take practice and courage to begin valuing persons based on their presence alone.
And we know that the social construct of race is not conversation material. The word is does more to cause disagreement, avoidance and uncomfortable silence. It is because race is based on who is good and who is bad, who is the best and who is the worst, who deserves the best and worst treatment in our society. In order to use it, we must agree with these terms and conditions, its structures and evaluations.
It is a lose- lose conversation because we are neither willing to give up our privileges or deny our oppressions. We won’t talk about it because power is at stake in both cases. The power that benefits us socially, to bless and blame, to curse and condemn.
Race is not relational. It was not created to build relationships of equality and fairness. Race was created for the purpose of hierarchical ordering. While we talk big in instances when the reality of our belief produces senseless and unthinkable tragedies, it is not long before we are back in our corners, back to our cultures, back to conversations that will continue this cycle of conflict.
Our relationships will change when the conversations change but it will begin with one word: race. We will need to recreate, reclaim or re- value words that are bigger and better for everyone. We will need to find words that are equally honoring, loving, just and true of all cultures. We will need to choose bigger words, that fit all human beings. Anything else is small talk.