Tag Archives: aracial identity

I doubt it: Questioning the credibility of race

Here is a confession:

I am not who race says that I am.  I will not be who race says that I will be.  I can go where race says that no “like me” has ever gone before.  Race does not open or close doors.  We do.

I am so tired of this race, this contest against flesh.  My color versus your color.  My favorite skin will win.  We are quite literally declaring champions of carnality.  Really, humans?

We have got life all wrong.  It is not experienced or found on the surface though we live on the level of our epidermis.  Because life is depth.  Life is digging.  We are dirt, always close to the earth.

We are not grounded in skin but soul.  And race is a case of mistaken identity, misplacing me, losing me in stereotypes.  Wait.  Stop.  This can’t be right.  Race has gotten it wrong.  I know that this is hard to believe but race gets it wrong.

Still, we speak of race as if it has 20/20 vision.  We pretend it is rightly identifying all of humanity when we know it sees in stereotypes.  It is how we see each other.  Lumped together in hopes of creating omniscience.

Tell the truth.  Race causes us to lose sight of each other quite literally, to turn a blind eye when necessary.  And in so doing, we are missing out on love, healing, relationship, truth… all because we cannot see each other.  Look at me.  Who do you really see?  Because race does not introduce you to me.

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Race says what I experience determines who I am, that I am who other persons say I am. But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  You can create distance between the experience and you.  I am not a collection of happenings, occurrences, accidents, trials and errors.  I don’t merely have a purpose but I am purpose, created to rise into the reality of living soul.

And so I must repeat: Race does not tell me who I am or who I will be.  It does not have its sights on me.  I am a mystery. I am race-less.  Race does not get to choose where I begin or will end up.  These are my feet and this is my future.  I can walk my own way.  Race does not know the way that leads to me.  We part ways here.

I refuse to allow something we made up to make over me.  I am made in God’s image and there is no changing that, no rearranging those facts.  I come in first, no second class creatures here.

Race is not so special and should be taken down a peg or two.  Frankly, I would be happy to take it off the pedestal all together.  An idol, it needs to come down and someone needs to say that it is a puppet.  I will be the first say that its mouth is not moving, that there is someone behind the curtain, that we are projecting our fears onto a word.

And it is only a word.  Nothing to be afraid of, I am not scared of what race can do to me. No bogey man, no monster under my bed or white man upstairs.  I shout, “Come and get me, race!”  I’ll be waiting up for you, eating cookies and drinking a cold glass of milk in my bed.

I sleep so much better now that I have kicked race out of my head.

We have fed into this fallacy and it seems impossible to cut it down to size.  It’s been going on for so long.  How can we stop it?  With our tongues, challenging words that describe our existence by epidermis.  Questioning the plausibility of life lived on the surface, of our omniscience, our fortune- telling of flesh.  Because we cannot look at someone’s appearance and tell who they are and who they will be.  C’mon, humans.

But, to call race a lie would be to admit that we have been lying to ourselves.  Because we are not as powerful or perfect as our self- proclamations would lead us to believe.  Believing our own press, it is time that we stop pushing this narrative.  Race is not real.  Snap out of it.

Because I can see beyond this trance.  I will not nod and agree because race will repeat after me, not vice versa.  Race will not cause me to question my humanity.  So, without apology, I admit that when it comes to race, I doubt it.

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Not Worth Much

Image result for the priceYesterday, I shared a message with the congregation titled, “Costly Obedience.”  Unpacking the well- known hymn recorded in Philippians 2.5-11, I invited listeners to consider again the price that Christ paid for our sins.  It was a costly obedience because he was obedient to the point of death– not obedient for personal gain, not agreeable to pacify.  Christ was obedient to the end of himself, his will to live surrendered for our sake.

But, we see so much death these days.  With church bombings in Egypt and the gassing of children in Syria, we could get use to it.  Paranoia or succumbing to our circumstances seem to be the only viable options.  However, this is not simply “the world we live in now”; it is the world we have created.  Not to be confused with the kingdom of God, this is not heaven for any of us.  Persons are paying the price for our theological disagreements, our contests for power and need for recognition with their lives.  This kind of belief paid in dead children’s bodies is an unfathomable exchange.

This, of course, led me to begin thinking about the identities we hold on to, inherit and pass down to our children.  In America’s racialized society, we fight for colored bodies, for black power, white power and visibility.  Somehow, we learned that this identity connects us to some truth greater than ourselves, that being defined by the social coloring of skin is worth something.  And persons will spend their lives emptying themselves of their culture, language and mannerisms in order to be filled with “whiteness.”   For many, it is believed to be the complete and full expression of our humanity, the supreme (human) being.

Race is a kind of religion with a racialized deity, creating good and bad bodies.  We create Christ in our image to prove that our bodies are valuable.  But, what does it cost to be a racial being?  Who paid the price for us to call ourselves beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white?  Surely, it is was not Christ.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could become white people– but God’s people.

How much did it cost?  Did persons really die so that you and I could identify as a socially colored person or in order for you to have the rights that belong to all human beings, regardless of the constructs that we create to withhold them?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  But, what of our racialized selves do we bury?  What funeral service have we held for black power or white nationalism?  Show me where we have buried this social identity?

Disproven by all sciences, we continue to keep race alive.  And if we have learned nothing of death, it is this– our skin serves no purpose in a grave.  When I look at Christ’s cross, I am reminded that the identity offered in race is not worth much.

 

Not My Problem

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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.

Not Enough For Me

Race does not know my name

I know that the actions committed in the name of race are real, that is makes a believer and faithful follower out of us, that we pledge allegiance to our skin and create borders around our bodies.  No race- mixing.

But, race does not have a real name for me.  Socially constructed, I don’t want this American society or any other to have a say in who I am because the revelation is only skin deep.  The social construct of race can only say so much.  Race does not know my real name and instead, pretends to know me by lumping me into a color- coded group.  “Hey, black people!”  But, what’s my name?

I know that the social construct of race orders our lives, assigning position and extending power based on the social coloring of skin.  I know that race has a place for all of us and there is not much wiggle room.  “White people have this.”  “Black people belong here.”  But, I don’t have to take the seat that race pulls out for me.  I don’t have to give up the power within me because it somehow disrespects the social construct of race.  Besides, I require more space so I will need to move on to greener pastures. Trust me, the grass is greener on the race- less side.

And the social construct of race can only go so far.  It can only take me to stereotypical places.  But, I can’t help but stop race and say, “I’ve seen these boxes before.”  I want to go somewhere else and more still, this is not the place for me.  I don’t fit in and I won’t try to.

Because race is not enough for me.  Unable to keep track of me or to tally all of my being and its expressions, race is not the sum of my existence.  The social construct of race is not the defining attribute of my life.  The color black is the not synonymous with my person and blackness does not capture my presence.

My life is bigger than the social construct of race and it could never satisfy my identity.  Because there is more to me, race will never be enough.  I dare not pretend that it can be.  So, how about you?

 

 

Race is not a Mirror

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Mirror, mirror on the wall… Whiteness is the fairest of them all.”

What do we need or expect to see of ourselves that calls for the social construct of race?  What of our humanity is made visible, evident, real when we become colored people?  What can we not see without the lens of race?  What of our vision of self does race provide, enhance and reveal?

Do you know who you are if you are not addressed by the social construct of race?  Would you know how to answer for yourself if race could no longer speak for you?  Could you find yourself if you could not be socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white?

Could you see yourself without the social construct of race?  What do you think that you would see in the nakedness of this reality?  What do you and I cover up when we put on race?  What are we hiding behind when we say that we are socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white?  And why the need for these colors?

Why do we pretend that race is our reflection, that it can see us as nothing else can, that it is our true self, God- given even?

What of ourselves are we ashamed of, embarrassed by, unsure 0r afraid of that we need race to boost our confidence, to hide behind or to shield us from assault?  Why do we keep it so close to us even as it is used to segregate us from ourselves and others?  When it does not show any of us in the best light?  Race is not our good side.

And why can’t we, why don’t we snatch it down, crush the idol under foot?  Why do we make ourselves look at it and like it?  Why do we hang it up in our homes, schools, offices and houses of worship?  How do we lift up race when it is neither Creator nor looking glass?  We are not made in its image and it is no reflection of who we really are.

Race is not sight or vision but prejudice.  It has never really us but looked passed us.  I suspect that it may be blind, blind to our humanity.

I suppose you are wondering, “Why all the questions?”  But, why not?  We would do our identities a great service to question the social construct of race, to challenge its colored-ness.  And to allow these answers to reflect back us what we really see when we say race.