Beyond black and white. It is the title of a popular book by Manning Marable. He begins his introduction this way:
“Black and white. As long as I can remember, the fundamentally defining feature in my life, and the lives of my family, was the stark reality of race. Angular and unforgiving, race was so much more than the background for relationships. It was the social gravity which set into motion our expectations and emotions, our language and dreams. Race seemed far more powerful than distinctions made between people based in language, nationality, religion and income. Race seemed granite- like, fixed and permanent, as the center of the social universe.”
Writing out our experiences with race and sharing them with others is important. But, defining what race means to us will change the way that we talk about race. Marable’s words are true and challenging. He positions race above our mere table talk and private jokes.
So fixed is this idea of race that it seems set in stone, unchangeable and immovable. We believe that race is permanent and since there is no changing race’s beliefs about “us” and “them,” then we are hopeless to change anything of our selves. We will always be beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white– unless race falls from our mental skies.
This is how we can get beyond race; it is to lower its standing in our minds. In order to move beyond black and white, we must not to lose sight of our differences but not allow race to define or value them. Race is a poor scale.
Moving beyond what race is doing to us in order to discuss the ways in which we have empowered race is a noteworthy cause. I mean, who put race in its place before we set it in stone? In order to break the chains of this social oppression, we must look at our own hands. I challenge us to look inside of our minds and examine what we think of race. What makes it so worthy to describe us? Why is it not just the center of our universe but a universe all its own? Why is it so important that we stick with race and not move beyond black and white?