Bad skin. Good skin. A larger problem than pimples, blackheads and an oily T- zone, the social coloring of skin and the meanings we associate with it are important. We talk about our flesh as if we expect it to behave or perform in a certain way, as if it represents our character and can somehow let us down. Ah, but in America, it can and it does.
The social construct of race says that my skin defines me, tells you what my presence means not just in this present moment but for the rest of my life. Much like how we look at fruit and inspect it for ripeness, I am expected to believe that solely by looking at my appearance one can determine if I am good or bad. Worse still, persons can toss me aside based on their observations without ever having a personal experience with me.
Wanting the preferred “color,” many of us train our epidermis with bleaching creams and lighteners, change the skin around our eyes, nose and lips to look right and consequently, to be right. We are then the right kind of person. We are socially acceptable. We can show our faces here. Our bodies are safe and safe here.
And we have made the process of identification very simple. We have color- coded good and bad people. And all we have to do is look at persons to tell the difference. Goodness also comes in degrees. Consequently, the lighter the skin color, the better the person.
Still, the social construct of race is a troublesome invention. It is a meddlesome creation that gets in the way of our humanity. It restricts the way that we see God, ourselves and our neighbor. This is why our declarations of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ is so important. This is why we must repeat again and again that we are not children of color but children of God. Again, we are children of God not children of color. Because there is a difference as race is not our creator; it is not the beginning of us. Because there is life after the flesh, it’s salvation is limited.
The social construct of race offers salvation through the social coloring of skin. However, this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it is his nail- scarred hands that save us– not the color of our own. Because if whiteness is our salvation, then what does it atone for? If all we have to do is be born in the right skin, what is socially colored “white” skin, then what salvation are we secure in? If the social coloring of skin saves us from suffering and/or affords unearned privileges, then why believe in the work of Christ’s cross?
The fact is, our belief in race does not supplement our faith in Jesus Christ; instead, it supplants it. The message of race does not affirm the good news of Jesus Christ. Because who needs a good God if you have good skin?