Category Archives: Race and Language

You’re not race-less yet?

UnknownStill signing up and showing up for the role of colored people, black, brown, red, yellow, white and otherwise?  Well, here are a few words of wisdom from two of my favorite writers to get you to choose differently and to say something more about who you are as a human being.  Because race is just a word albeit systematized, politicized, capitalized on.

But there are many other words that can be said about us and our neighbor.  We need only seek them out and speak them out loud.  A new tongue is required along with a taste for full freedom and authentic being. It’s a stretch to get our mouths around words like racelessness and aracial; however, it is well worth it.  For if we are to build another world, it will require new words that equip new structures on which to construct our shared humanity.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that James Baldwin is a must in this conversion experience.  This master- teacher, healer and word- therapist says,

“If you’re treated a certain way, you become a certain kind of person. If certain things are described to you as being real, they’re real for you– whether they’re real or not.”

“From my point of view, no label, no slogan, no party, no skin color, and indeed no religion is more important than the human being.”

“What you say about anybody else reveals you.”

“It is not a romantic matter. It is the unutterable truth: all men are brothers. That’s the bottom line.”

“The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible.”

“What one does realize is that when you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you had a right to be here, without knowing that this is the result of it, you have attacked the entire power structure of the Western world.”

Zora Neale Hurston is another deliverer from this death of individuality.  She says,

“I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.”

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

“Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less.”

“For various reasons, the average, struggling, non-morbid Negro is the best-kept secret in America. His revelation to the public is the thing needed to do away with that feeling of difference which inspires fear, and which ever expresses itself in dislike.”

“At certain times, I have no race.  I am me.  I belong to no race or time.”

Are you race-less yet?  If not, say these words again… and again until they become your own.

 

Acceptance

See the source image“Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you.”

| Romans 15.7, NIV

Spawned by reports of the current American president’s remarks on immigration, which included speaking of Haiti and the entire continent of Africa (i.e. some 54 countries and two de facto territories) in terms unbecoming of a human being– much less a president, the national dialogue has returned to an old argument of race theory.  Race says where we are born determines our social value, that persons are inherently worthy or worthless based on their appearance.  It is a simplistic claim: goodness on location.  Acceptance based on appearance, this is as superficially good as it gets.

Incompatible with the unconditional love of God, “who so loved the world” and inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, still persons claim that the kingdom of God is “white” and is a single country- the United States.   Today, there are those who continue to believe that God sees the world through blue eyes.  They honestly think that God has goldilocks and only spends time with those people who are “just right.”  Clearly, they have their stories mixed up, adding in a bit of fairy tale into sacred writ.  It is obviously self- serving since only those socially colored white have the right to live happily ever after.

So proud is whiteness that it claims that God desires it, needs it, that God’s power is determined by it.  God must be white if God is to be accepted as all- powerful.

Made of earth, it has always struck me as odd that some dirt, some flesh, some people are perceived as inherently better.  “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”  Made by the same God, some persons are thought to be created “a little lower than” others.  Not surprisingly, the purpose aligns itself quite neatly with persons who espouse these views and their capitalist goals.  It also matches their will and supports the idea that they are God’s gift to the world.  Thanks but no thanks, Jesus.  What religion is this exactly?

Because the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be racialized. The kingdom of God is not segregated, color- coded, divided up into people groups.  And God is not a Person of color, the trinket of culture, to be accepted if the divine image matches our own.  God is good if God is with us– and not them.  No, God is Spirit and those who worship must worship spiritually and truthfully (John 4.24).  And the truth is, we are not accepted conditionally but gracefully.  “Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you.”

When you don’t know what to say

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2015 file photo, Amy Robach attends the 25th Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York. Robach has apologized for using a term for African Americans on Monday’s broadcast of the ABC program. After the broadcast, Robach released a statement explaining she had meant to say “people of color.”She called the incident “a mistake” and “not at all a reflection of how I feel or speak in my everyday life.” (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File): FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2015 file photo, Amy Robach attends the 25th Annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York. Robach has apologized for using a term for African Americans on Monday’s broadcast of the ABC program. After the broadcast, Robach released a statement explaining she had meant to say “people of color.” She called the incident “a mistake” and “not at all a reflection of how I feel or speak in my everyday life.” (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)Good Morning America’s (GMA) Amy Robach is not a having a good morning right now.  She said the wrong word during an on- air show.  To be sure, it was a racial slur: colored people.

I know, I know.  It’s really close to the word now being used: people of color.  But, not really.

People of color is a word chosen by the… people of color.  They own it.  They control it.  It was not a name given but a name chosen as an identifier.

Colored people is not a new name and it has a long and troubling history.  Used to segregate, demean and dehumanize, we have the signs to prove it.  It is not a name chosen by persons of African descent but a name assigned.  See the difference?

In ancient times, naming was associated with ownership.  The practice was reinstated during American slavery (though some would argue that this can also be associated with marriages wherein the woman takes on the name of her husband) when enslaved Africans were given new names, names which most of us still have today.  Our last names remind us of a history lost, an ancestral family taken away, a culture far removed from us and deep connections lost.

So, it’s not just a word.  It’s not just a name.  It matters what we say and persons have the right to choose what they will answer to.  So, when you don’t know what to say, ask.  How would you like to be referred to?

If you don’t want to ask and if there is a tinge of anger due to this suggestion, well then, there are some other questions that need to be asked of you.