Tag Archives: aracial being

Tongue tied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I proclaim a raceless gospel when there is so much faith in race?  Why do I scribble over words in books that color- code our shared humanity and repeat the appropriate cultural designations aloud?  We are not black but African Americans.  We are not white but European Americans.  We are not yellow but Asian Americans.  We are not red but indigenous people who live in what has been renamed the United States of America.  We are not brown but Latino/a Americans (The racial category also includes Southeast Asian people, North African people and a few other cultural groups).  We are not beige, the color chosen for those who are bi- cultural but we share in the diversity of our humanity and represent what it looks like when cultures come together.  We are love bridges.

Because race will not tell me what I see or who I can see or how I must see others.

Because human beings are not colors, a collection of attributes and physical characteristics.  Because race does not even come close to expressing who we are in the world and in relation to each other.  Because race is not a witness to my human being or yours; it can never testify to seeing us.  I may not be colorblind but I am certain that race is blind.  Race captures what we feel about our flesh and its findings are literally superficial.

Race is not a hypothesis.  It is an uneducated guess about our humanity as its creators had no idea what they were saying or how their words would be used hundreds of years later.  And yet it is informed for the purposes of economic and political advantage.  Persons who use the racial categories to their advantage, use it as a means of oppression, as a leg up and a foot down on those who would attempt to rise above the fray.  Because who is willing to give up their privilege, their head start, to reject the title of whiteness?  Because we are not really taking away whiteness but social benefits, immunities and protections that go ahead of us, clear the way for us.

Because race is about competition and calling persons black slows us down.  Persons who are socially colored black are deemed lazy.  They cannot keep up and yet their ancestors built up this nation.  It doesn’t make sense.  One should cancel out the other and yet, we choose one over the other.  Because it serves us well and serves us best to think of another as less than us.  Because race is about pride, our insecurities and wanting to be so much more than human.  So rather than work hard, we think the worst of others to make ourselves feel better: lazy.

Laziness is a stereotype, a rock in the shoes of those who would attempt to make strides, who would try to cross the color line.  This is why it hurts when they have to “jump higher and run faster” than their counterparts.  Because they don’t have to deal with a word that is meant to trip them up and tie their tongue.  Because it is hard to say anything good about being black, which is why some persons talk white.

This need to be white is a mental transformation, a metamorphosis, a conversion of sorts.  Race has a life of its own, separate and apart from who we are and were meant to be.  Race is another story, a smaller narrative and a diversion.  It is not the way, the truth or the life (John 14.6).

Because the creature- created and run racial identities have no spiritual benefits and no eternal value.   Instead, the sociopolitical and economic construct of race is a kind of currency.  Our belief in race continues the need for this skin trade.  Nearly four hundred years later with the approaching anniversary of the first Africans enslaved and brought to the Virginia shores, we are still in bondage.  Tongue tied to race are most of us and me to the raceless gospel.

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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?

 

Don’t let race fool you

April 1st is reserved for pranks.  No serious business today.  But, I thought it could also serve to remind us to not be fooled.  You are more than the eyes can see.  You are race-less and that’s no joke.

Not My Problem

Image result for not my problem image

I am at a meeting of clergy for three days of specialized training in interim ministry.  Day one focuses on theories.  On the second day, the facilitator offered a few tools and way too many personal stories.  But, when we began a discussion about power and he wanted to move to his next slide, the group of mostly European Americans wanted to say more.  He sat down in his chair uncomfortably.  He had not prepared for this.

Without prompting, they begin to critique their own privileges and then someone said, “And we need to listen to those who don’t share the same experience.”  Another clergywoman saw this as an opportunity and began, “I am a black woman.  I am a minority.  I am powerless.”  She is perhaps 20 years my senior and of a different time.  She bears the scars to prove it and most of our colleagues can remember when she got them.  I had only read about them and watched documentaries.

But, I realized that it was not only age or time that created distance between us.  I could not agree with her statement.  And while the social construct of race would suggest that we think the same and share the same beliefs, it left me no other choice but to challenge its omniscience.  My heart was pounding by now; the words were throbbing in my head.  “Let us out,” they seemed to say.  I am not one to hold back truth so I let them go.

“I do not identify with the social construct of race.  I don’t believe that human beings are colored people, that there are beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white people.  I would not describe myself as a minority as we are all counted as human beings.  And I am not powerless.  I enter the world with power; consequently, no one can give or take my power away.”

So, apparently, I am an anomaly.  My comments were met with silence– though we have a Word- God who affirms our being down to the hairs of our head (Matthew 10.30).  Afterwards, another clergywoman thanked me for sharing my perspective.  She wished she could see as I did.  For me, she, too, was expressing powerlessness.   “These are not my eyes.  I am not in control of what I see.  I can’t see anything else.”

She went on to talk about the fights that she had engaged in for the rights of others.  I expressed that I had also chosen not to start there.  I do not have to live on a battlefield.  I have rejected the fights of the past, decided not to enlist or allow anyone to force me to sign up.  No human being can tell me who I am or am not– and I don’t have to fight for my identity.

She started to credit her generation for my position but this too was rejected.  God had given me this vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.18, NRSV).  This was not my problem because I accepted God’s promise.  I pray that you would accept it as well.

Receive this holy vision.  This is my prayer.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.