I love to talk about race. It is a practice of discipleship; I pick up my cross with race nailed down to it. I love to drag race.
For me, it is normal, natural and healthy. Talking about race, what it has done to me and to Christianity help me to expel its toxins. I actually feel better, lighter and less like a liar. Because race is a lie that American society has told me about myself and rather than correct it, I tell it to myself. Because they say, “I am black” so do I. It’s easier this way. Rather than fight this system that oppresses my human being, I just let it have its way, have its say, have full sway over me.
Take it or leave this country. “Go back to Africa!” Sad fact: I’ve never been to Africa. All I know is how to be an American and that identity has always been a problem for me. Because it wasn’t a given for my ancestors and it still isn’t a given for me.
It’s whiteness for me. The existence of an identity that a society will cater to and give to those it approves of at the expense of nullifying the existence and lived experience of others would be almost unfathomable to me if it were not for the griots, the storytellers. Whiteness is a devastating lie. It destroys any chance of community.
Every time, I talk about race as a sociopolitical construct it loosens its grip on me. I am almost free. My friends and family members weigh heavily on me. What will they say? What if they don’t agree?
But I’m come too far to turn back and to turn on this new tongue. Racelessness. I still have so much more to say and I’m going to say it– even I have only myself to say it to. Because it is true and true of me. These words made flesh will set me free.
I love to talk about race because it rattles its chains, reminds persons that it is a created identity that does not bind us together but imprisons, prevents us from seeing who we could be. We’ve been told that we are colored people for so long that we cannot even imagine who we would be apart from race. It is impossible to consider because “this is the world that we live in.”
We don’t believe that we can change it so we allow it to change us. We are told that we are colored, “beige, black, brown, red, yellow and white.” And rather than ask questions as to why we should answer to such, we repeat after our parents, our teachers, our pastors. We step into these categories before we have even taken a good look at ourselves.
We should talk about that. What do I mean when I say that I am “beige, black, brown, red, yellow and white?” What does being a colored person mean apart from society’s treatment? Who would I be if I were not colored or do I believe that because I have been colored in that I have no choice?
So Christians, God offers free will but the sociopolitical construct of race does not? How big is race? How much more powerful than the God we confess, who gives us a choice in how we will live? We’ve got to talk about that.
And I know what people say but talking about race is not the problem. We are not talking about it too much; in fact, we have not said enough, not questioned it enough, not examined its impact on us, our beliefs and behaviors. We have not dug down deep enough.
Still, there are persons who will say that (1) talking about race gets us nowhere, (2) that we have said all there is to say on the subject, (3) that race and its implications in society do not involve me or my voice doesn’t need to be included in the conversation because I’m no expert, (4) that talking about race only leads to more division, (5) that talking about race makes it a problem. But all of these misconceptions are the problem. We’ve got to talk about race until we talk it out of a job. We’ve got to talk about race until we no longer employ it when talking about ourselves and others. We’ve got to talk about race until we no longer are tempted by its power to oppress, until we no longer can stomach its privileges at the expense of squeezing, choking the life out of others weakened by economic policies that deprive them and their neighborhoods of the vitality so many of us claim naturally.
We’ve got to talk it out of our heads until we no longer think in ways that desire to divide and conquer. We’ve got to talk it out of our hearts until our love is undivided. We’ve got to talk it out of our hands until we share all that we have in common. We’ve got to talk it off the tip of our tongues until we no longer speak it into existence, until we see race for what it is, a word that we have incarnated and decide that it should rise no more. So let’s continue to talk about race and prove these misconceptions wrong.