Category Archives: Race

I need another word

 

See the source imageWe need new words.  I need new words, ones that roll off my tongue.  The colored ones get caught in my throat.  New being in Jesus Christ, these racialized ones don’t work for me.  They didn’t go down easily.  They didn’t stick to me.  I cannot make them a part of me, just take them when they treat me as foreign, my body no longer kin.

Race gets me beside myself, compared to someone else.  And I just want to be free.  I want this word off of me.  It has no right to rule over me.  I have something to say.  I have the final say in who I am and who I will be.  Still, race interrupts so frequently that I’ve grown tired and now it speaks for me.

Hold my tongue.

Hold my breath.

Die to self.

Die to who God created me to be.

Baptized with Christ, race should be dead to me.

Skin.

Ashes.

Dust.

I need to talk about it in the past tense.  Race was here.

America capitalizes on everything, even skin is its own kind of currency.  But, I am not buying it.  Change the market.  I want something else.  Because race is not another word for human.

No, I need a new word.

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Belonging in Your Skin

“She is so comfortable in her own skin.”  It is an idiom used to describe persons who are confident and have a clear understanding of self and abilities, especially when interacting with other persons.  They are comfortable with being who they are.  While it is a familiar expression, I find it a strange one.  It suggests that we be comfortable in some one else’s, that it is possible to have an out of body experience.  Using someone else’s body is an option.

It’s just a figure of speech but what does it figure about us?  Why skin?  What does this expression suggest about human being?  With America’s long obsession with skin, it warrants a closer look.

If there is one place persons should feel comfortable and at home is in their own bodies.  But so often, we are not?  Not limited to the social construct of race and the desired or undesired features associated with it, we are often ill- at- ease with our own eyes, nose, lips, legs, feet, height and weight.  But, why?  Why do we so often want to change who we are before we have even discovered who she is?  Before we have the answer, we are already questioning ourselves down to our hair follicles.

No matter the source for our angst or uncertainty, it must be said that these feelings are not a measure of self- awareness but come by way of comparison.  We are comfortable with ourselves based on the other bodies around us and if we deem ourselves their equal or better.  It is not as if we get to choose the skin we are in.  Consequently, we must reconsider this notion of belonging.

Because belonging in your skin should be a given.  Where else will your bones go?  What else will hold up your frame?  We cannot peel it off or try on another, despite our attempts at skin lightening treatments.  And belonging is not found on this layer or level.

We are not a member of our epidermis.  It is merely a covering and it is more than a cover up when we begin to reject our own skin.  It is skin, protecting us from the elements and should not be the basis of a social experiment.  It is skin, regulating our body temperature and not a determinant for our treatment of our selves or someone else.  It is skin that ages, wrinkles, cracks and needs to be washed.  And identity based on it is all washed up.

Our skin belongs to us but not in the way that race would have it.  Race says our sense of belonging, whether we are in or out, accepted or rejected is based on our flesh.  Instead, our skin belongs to us in the way that our body cannot live without it.  It is the means by which we survive physically– not socially.

These racialized identities, these skin identities are non- God- given ones.  Though a social reality, as Christians, our belief in race makes no theological sense.  Race continues to thrive in our minds despite its ability to be lived out honestly in our bodies.  Why are we so comfortable with that?

 

Tongue


“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

    and those who love it will eat its fruits.” | Proverb 18.21

Calling all cats!

Get our tongues!

Only you can play with them.

Open your mouths and say, “Ahhh.”

Because if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Loose lips are dangerous.

Teeth hold steady

We cannot help hate, which always stands ready.

We must hold our tongues

 accountable

Every letter and every syllable

No tongues lashing

These are life and death words

Horror stories, the product of our characters

Tongue- swords, piercing flesh, dealing death

One word away from taking her last breath

This is no time to be talking out of both sides of your mouth.

You say what you mean.

You mean what you say.

Swear to me that you will use your tongue for love.

People are dying over our words, falling to never rise again.

Because of pride’s insurrection that burns our throats and makes our veins bulge.

Don’t let your lip slip.

Bite your tongue

Until it bleeds

 

Instead cry and say what you really mean.

Turn on your tongue.

Tell on your tongue.

Confess the sins of your tongue.

I must warn you.

It is unruly and not to be tamed.  Ask James.[1]

Still it is better than adding to this list of names:

Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon (husband of Bernice), Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones.

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[1] See James 3.6-8, NRSV: “And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Another day, another tragedy: What do we say now?

Every day and in the United States in particular, we experience one deception, one violation, one scandal, one mass shooting, one assault on our collective reasoning, one attack on our decency after another.  Social media catches it all and acts more like a net, a web.  I can’t shake it though I want it off of me.  I am ensnared by what I read and see.  What I know often paralyzes me with fear or it sticks to me and I take it where ever I go.  “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”

Tonight is no different.  I am sitting on my bed and wondering, “What do we say now?”  Reminded yet again of the world our words create, I am struggling to find them.  I know that I have them around here somewhere but I do not have the energy to look, the desire to try to give hope one more chance.

I want to say, “Things will get better” but it doesn’t sound right.  I need to say, “Be still my soul and know who your God is” as she paces frantically back and forth.  But, those words won’t come to me no matter how many times I ask them to.

And a cat does not have my tongue but I wouldn’t feel it if she did.  I think that I am numb.  Because I can’t keep feeling like this and survive.  I am slowly shutting down.

Mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg.  He wanted “to kill Jews,” the deadliest in U.S. history.  Two African American grandparents were killed at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky.  The shooter tried to enter a African American- led church before committing this heinous act.  Fourteen bombs sent to political leaders, a benefactor and a vocal Trump critic.  All in the same week.  What can I say?

The news is breaking me and it is taking me longer to piece my thoughts together these days.  It is harder to believe in our shared humanity when we are divided in these ways.  These words pile up and around me.  I am trying to clean up my act, to get my act together.  I sort through my letters, trying to form words that make sense– because this doesn’t make sense.

What are we saying about each other and to ourselves if this is the response?  White nationalism. Xenophobia.  Political Terrorism.  The world is not getting smaller but we are.  Despite the speed of our internet connections, we are shrinking, shirking our duty to love, to listen, to learn from each other.  Replaced with words like echo chamber.

But, I don’t want to hear this anymore.  I want to say something different so that I can see something different.  Because these words are not working for me.  This cannot continue to be our reality.  Another day, another tragedy, what do we say now?

Plain and simple: It’s Jesus or race

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“His (Jesus’) life must mean the death of race in us.”

| Brian Bantum, The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World

It’s not hard.  Letting go of race is not difficult.  I know that it is not something that we would consider and that you didn’t ask for assistance with.  I know that you two have your problems but they’re your problems.  I know that I should stay out of it, that its a personal problem, a social conundrum, a spiritual dilemma.  I really should keep my nose out of it and my two cents.  But, I can’t.

While some people can’t get their minds around this race-less gospel, they shake their heads in agreement. Yes, it is a social construct.  Yes, it is not a biological reality.  I know that color and country are not synonymous, that color is not my Creator.  Yes, I am more than skin but soul and Spirit- filled.  Yes, but no.

No.  We have to stop right there because they can’t go beyond this intellectual acceptance.  Yes, that was their confession but no.  Getting rid of race is too hard.  It will take more time.  No talk of starting now and no mention of when this racialized existence would come to an end.  They just know that it can’t happen.  It won’t happen anytime soon, in the near future.  Strangely, they cannot see a future when race is not near.

“Because who would I be without my color?  I have always been beige, brown, red, yellow, black or white.  How would I identify myself?  Who would I identify with?”

So much to lose and not enough to choose from.  Race has them covered.  Life can only make sense to them if they are colored.

You would think that I asked them to peel off their skin.

They speak as if they would cease to exist and though Christian, the idea of being born again never crosses their mind.  There is no need to enter the womb a second time (John 3.4).  Enter water and Spirit.

But, for those who confess Jesus as Lord, it seems way too easy to put race to death through our new life in him.  New creatures, we simply cannot stop identifying with race.  And worse still, we imagine that God cannot be identified apart from it.  But, we can have one without the other and only one cancels out the other.

So, what will it be– Jesus or race?