Tag Archives: belief

What Race Is Not (II)

Oftentimes, it seems that we would rather celebrate the self- discoveries of others rather than to seek and find the treasures within our respective identities.  This truth is evident in our celebrity- driven culture where teenagers and adults alike live vicariously through musical artists, actors/actresses and popular sports figures.  Their songs become our mantras, their careers become our dreams and their successes become our own.  In some strange way, our knowing them, though limited to and filtered through various media outlets, makes us feel popular, beautiful, self- aware, talented and accomplished.

Likewise, we celebrate the claims and names of generations past because it is easier than making our own.  It is easier to simply repeat what others say than to wait for our own unique perspective to emerge as self- definition is hard work.  But, I concur with Gandhi that “to think independently for oneself is a sign of fearlessness.”  And our time is nothing to be afraid of.  It is not against us but for us, even if we feel that we must redeem it.  The inability to see as Audre Lord the need to define ourselves for ourselves cannot be overstated.

This is most troubling for me when it comes to race as we live vicariously through its colors. Its meanings become our life’s definition, its power becomes our privilege and its vision for humanity becomes our sight.  Our belief in race, though its origin and purpose have been redefined over time, provides a superficial membership and belonging, a pseudo awareness, perception and understanding of ourselves and our neighbor and a reality that does more to eat away at our humanity than to enhance it.  Still, due to fear, indifference, or ignorance, we would rather accept the racialized life given to us than to discover for ourselves the life that God has for us.

But, race is NOT our creator.  We are not people of color but people of God.  We are not created in the image of race. We are not a byproduct of race, helplessly tied to the social predestinations of social colors.  Our meaning and purpose is not linked to our appearance: the social coloring of our skin, the texture of our hair, the size of our lips, the color of our eyes.  It is not our source or the substance of our humanity.

Race is NOT real but a part of the social imagination, a cruel and twisted fantasy that has its roots in greed and a lust for power.  A generous benefactor, it often funds hysteria and paranoia.  It is the unbelievable lie that we choose to accept, unable to detach ourselves from it though it separates us from God’s reality.

Race is NOT divine.  It possesses no supernatural ability, has no overarching, consummate purpose for humanity.  It is not morally above us neither beneath us as the foundation of our existence.  It has no true creative authority as it can only re-create.  Race is NOT omniscient.  It knows only what we do not know about ourselves and thrives in our inexperience and ignorance.  It only knows us best because we choose only to believe the worst about ourselves.  Thus, it does not know best and it does not know all.  Race is NOT omnipresent. It is only present where we allow it entry and access.  Race is most present when we are most absent, choosing not to participate in our lives.  It is escapable and cannot be found in every incident of mistreatment or abuse.  It is not in all places at all times but can be avoided.  Race is NOT omnipotent.  It does not have all power but instead gains its power and influence from us.  We are the body of race, its hands and feet, mouth and ears, heart and mind.  It cannot exist without us.

Race is NOT self- existent or self- evident.  Race is not an internal reality; it does not possess or inhabit us.  We are not born seeing through a racial lens.  It is a social prescription given to us.  And we embody it, its beliefs and behaviors.  It cannot live a part from us as it did not create itself.  It is not Alpha and Omega, not eternal but having a beginning and thus an end.

We must not leave the discovery of our true ourselves in the hands of race neither should we live our lives through it. There is more to life and to us.  Race is NOT right about any of us.

Be Specific (Part II)

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

~ Romans 3.23

This week, I continue to ponder this notion of all.  The assertion that we can know everything about someone based on their racial grouping (which should not be confused with culture as the two are not synonymous), that we can predict the education and subsequent occupation, that we can prejudge the motivations and aspirations, that we can know a person’s past, present and future, that we can determine the influence and authority of a person— based solely on his and her social coloring.  Unconsciously, we believe in the omniscience of race, in its omnipresence and omnipotence.  Race can know all and do all and be in all places just like… the God that we confess to serve.

And we, like race, also claim these abilities in our opinions and mental designations of persons we don’t know but have seen. Race, this system of social coloring, pretends to give us a super-human ability to assess millions of people at one time based on one person and/or one experience with a person who may or may not be a member of the socially assigned group.  All based on one.

One is a small number for such a broad stroke of the social paintbrush.  One experience will cause a sweeping pronouncement over all the persons who “look” like him or her.  One theft will make all thieves.  One lie will make all liars (e.g. African Americans have been referred to as “a race of liars.”).  And there are positive stereotypes if there can be such.  One leader will make all leaders or presumed born to rule.  The image of one (kind of) pretty face will make all beautiful.  All based on one.

But, what crimes will go unpunished because of the social description of the appearance of evil?  This was often the question during the time of mob lynchings as hundreds of innocent African American men, women and children were murdered for crimes that they did not commit.  What truths will go unheard due to the societal image of honesty?  What steps will we not take because of our limited vision of a leader? What splendor will we forfeit because it did not come in the color socially accepted?

What has been lost in our belief in all?  What have we not pursued?  Where did we not go?  Who did we not talk to?  How did we perceive ourselves in the presence of the perception of all?

The truth of the matter remains that we are incapable of such ability or knowledge; our finiteness prevents its possession and our immaturity restricts its practice.  And when we live as if we possess it, we ultimately lose more than we pretend to have gained.  Only God knows us all and only God has the ability to be precise and exact even in His generality.  God says that we all have sinned and this is not a stereotype.

It’s a Stretch

There are so many reasons to believe in race and it is certainly easier to just accept the reality that I have been given— to be as I’m told.  Black.  But, what if I don’t agree?  Is it then wrong to talk back to society, to argue with the seemingly parental figure that is my culture?  I don’t think so.  Not if I don’t believe that race birthed me, that I am seeing my identity and place in society as more of an adoption than a product of natural conception.

I do not look black.  My skin is not physically black so I can then question my maternity/paternity.  What came together to create black people and for that matter, white, red, yellow, and brown people?  It is not a divine conception or a scientific product.  Of course, these truths then call into question those that I would consider family and the stereotype that “we all look alike” begins to lose its credibility.  I must reconsider membership and belonging, self- image and self- understanding, reality and social reconstructions.

Why couldn’t I just believe in race?  So much has been invested in making race a reality.  Why waste a great lie?  It seems that the entire world has agreed to this social contract.  We have already been fitted for the costumes of colored people (White is a color too.), our roles are understood and the script has been memorized.  It seems easier to merely perform to sold out crowds that increase with the birth of each new American citizen.  Why ruin a good thing, right?

Wrong because race is not a good thing.  Race not only does not speak to the good things about humanity but it doesn’t bring out the good in us.  Has race brought us any closer to ourselves or each other?  What awards or accolades can be attributed to the work of race or its progeny?  How has being identified as a color contributed to the progress of humanity?

Not believing in race is a stretch.  This stance does more than goes against the grain but my position as an anti- race writer goes against historical interpretations of social interaction, cultural memory and governmental rule.  Still, it is what I must do.  I’m a runner and stretching is necessary.

One Finish Line

Race does not exist.  It is but a construct of our social imagination; a single mental image that is perceived as real and that we have agreed to bring into our reality.   It is but a dream filled with mythical characters like the mammy, brute, Jezebel, and Uncle Tom.  It is a place where people become colors– black, white, red, yellow, brown, half- breeds, mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons and are assigned worth and dignity accordingly.

Much like that of the Tooth Fairy and the Boogey Man, we will tell our children about race.  We will tell them to expect its visit and we will reward them for believing.  We will check inside the closet and look underneath the bed to reassure them, all the while knowing that race is not real.  We are not racial beings but human beings.  So, is it really belief or something else?

Why do we continue to perpetuate the belief in the existence of race and the practice of racism?  Surely, there are better things to reward one for believing in and there are enough scary creations to frighten us than to make us afraid of ourselves and each other.  Still, we clutch our purses, cross the street when we see someone of a cultural group different from our own approaching and avoid eye contact upon passing each other.   In effect, we are pulling the bed sheets over our eyes, finding more security in this dream- like trance than in engaging life for ourselves and discovering that there is no one under the bed or in our closet, that we do not seek to harm each other because of the pseudo- color of our skin.

So, get out of the bed.  Yes, it’s comfortable and it’s warm.  Yes, you’re tired of fighting race and you just want to rest.  Yes, it allows you to wear your favorite pajamas and life, whether good or bad, is predictable with race.  But, after awhile your muscles will become rigid (Your mind will become rigid.) and later you will become bed- ridden, unable to move or think without the assistance of race.  And you will have only experienced life through the lens of race.

I’m running today, not against race as it is no match for my humanity but I’m running toward myself.  There is but one finish line.