No, this will not be about Beyonce’s new “Formation” video or its continued controversy. If you are interested in a really thoughtful, perhaps too thoughtful interpretation of the song, click here. If not, keep reading.
We talk a lot about what race says about us and others. What we do not discuss as much are the ways in which our words shape us and our reality. We quite literally change the way we see ourselves and others based on what we say about either.
While words inform us, they also inwardly form us. The words of race advise us on the value of personhood, the possibility or impossibility of a relationship and what this person means to us. However, this information can become a characterization; a liberal application of one word can cause us to only see her and him as a color. We are then misinformed by race.
There are too many instances of this kind of mistaken identity. “I see you as black so I thought you were dangerous.” “I see you as white so I thought you hated me.” “I see you as red so I thought you were an alcoholic.” “I see you as yellow so I thought you were into computers or good at math.” “I see you as beige so I thought that you mixed up about who you saw yourself to be.”
We have all of this racialized information but don’t appear to be any wiser or better because of it. What are we doing with the words of race? Why do we have them if it is clear that more often than not, they have us? We are left holding the bag after a poor call, a misunderstanding or worse, the death of an unarmed person. We can only say, “Race… Race told me so. Race told me to.”
But, what are we really saying about our lives and our bodies if we allow race to continue to touch us everywhere? Is there no space where race is not allowed, where its words, its hands do not shape us? And if not, why not?
Why do we continue to subject ourselves to racial formation? Whose hands are these? Whose words are these? Who said that they were good for us? And why do we continue to sit and allow our souls to be configured, patterned, molded, developed by this prejudicial point of view?
May we find the courage and the confidence to step out of line, to cross the color line, to break ranks and this social arrangement. This is my prayer. Amen.