“You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.”
| James Baldwin
Pushing back on society’s image of you takes strength, discipline and conviction. There is no easy way out, no clearly marked and accessible option other than the racialized ones. You will have to make space for yourself. You will have to recreate yourself. You will have to find yourself but it will require that you step outside of the color lines.
In this world, you are a color— beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white— and you don’t even get to pick one. Your skin, thy epidermis, is not even literally, physically any of these colors but instead, falls within the range of vision for how one human being or another sees you. This is a person’s idea of you— not to be confused with God’s image of you. Colored is what society thinks of you and me and you too.
And we all know the history of race, its unenlightened and eugenic beginnings and should have figured it all out by now. With all of the books that have been written, it is no mystery unless you want to hide behind the sociopolitical construct of race, unless you don’t feel up to the fight, unless you don’t want to force the issue of your true identity. If this is not the case, then push back and keep on pushing. Because you and I are worth the effort. Because there is more to us than what meets the eye. Because some random eye will not have it, will not have the first and final say, will not have his way with my life hundreds of years after this lie was spoken.
But I will let this world have it. I will tell the world how I am to be viewed and addressed. Because black is not my first name or my last. It is not my primary descriptor, not the way in which I will be introduced or remembered. Don’t tell me that it’s all there is and that’s all this world has got for me. I push back on this feigned scarcity of identity because there is so much more to me than this racialized reality.
I will refuse its categories and boxes. They are not comfortable or hospitable. I will decline the invitation to enter the conversation in ways that convert me to a racialized idea. I am an image, a much bigger picture, framed with the Divine. And I don’t care if the world can’t see it.
To be sure, this is no simple exchange. These are fighting words. But race is not a God- given identity so you can give it back. But it is going to be hard for society to take it. Divine image bearer or the world’s image of you? One requires force; the other doesn’t.
I am a force to be reckoned with. What are you?