“After all these generations and centuries of practice, we still don’t know how to see and talk about ourselves or each other. We are at the same time obsessed with ‘race’ and wholly confounded by it.”
|Thomas Chatterton Williams, Self- Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
Oppressed and oppressor, master and slave, America has only two roles, two ways of being, two ways of seeing ourselves and our neighbors. For us or with them, America has never been united as states or citizens. Always divided against itself, wars familial and civil.
We have been split down the middle. North and South, we continue to exist as opposing sides. There are the haves and the have nots. You are either white or you are not. That’s all America’s got to give its citizens.
Pick a color, any of these colors: beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white. Out of sight but drilled into our minds. Still, I have questions because we are not physically colored any of these contrived choices. So, what am I really looking at? First, I saw me but now I don’t.
The meaning is rubbed in and into our faces. We talk about race as if we cannot look away or look any other way, like if I do not choose a color, then all the meaning will be drained from my face. But what if I don’t see it in the mirror? Should I break it? I tried to love my “race” but it is breaking my heart and what if my heart is set on a different time, a time before race and I’m just ahead of my time?
I am expected to believe there is B.C. and A.D. but not B.R.? Always carnal, it is a sign of the times. Same setting, same script, I see what it says but I don’t want to act this out. I am exiting stage left. I will find my own way out.
Because it is the same old story, one that has been told for hundreds of years now. The story of human races is not thousands of years old. It is not prehistoric, primordial or ancient. We don’t have to dig very deep. Still, its characters and stereotypes are mythical in proportion, larger than our own lives and whiteness especially is legendary. There is seemingly no getting around these images or past race though antiquated.
The story is more than outdated. It has been employed well beyond its need though American leadership remains plantation style: house and field, suburban and urban. Yet, there are those who have been born again and refuse to be enslaved in this next life. This is why I don’t want to hear it anymore and I am not alone.
There is a growing number of people who have grown weary of racialized categories, the nonsensical arrangement of human being and belonging, the predetermined proximities between me, myself and I, the socially enforced realities and relationships that come along with this prepackaged existence. It just doesn’t add up and it doesn’t amount to much in the end. These are flesh fights. “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.” Cover your ears less you be covered up.
Hear it as a sin against God, another creation story that American society sticks to while sticking its chest out. We say it loud, “I am beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white and proud!” Ready to fight to the death, to take our last breath in defense of an evil overheard and past down. Uncertain of who said it first and who we really are but confident that there is only one side to this story, we take it and take on one of two roles: oppressed and oppressor.