Tag Archives: post- racial identity

Not Your Average Identity

During this season of Lent, a kind of forty- day challenge for some believers, I have been reflecting on surrender and what we mean when we say, “I give up.”  In the practice of our faith, according to the terms and conditions of our discipleship, giving up is a good thing.  Dare I say, it is the goal.  “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16.24).

In our surrender to the Spirit of God and the denial of self- gratification, we practice a little of Christ’s death.  In denying our carnal selves, we accept more of the spiritual life of Jesus.  Because he denied himself on a daily basis in service to humanity and as a servant of God’s will: “not my will but yours” (Luke 22.42).

He could have been full of himself.  He could have touted his successes.  He could have pointed to the number of angels that follow him.  He could have boasted of all his creations– but he didn’t.

But, the social construct of race does just the opposite.  It puts the confidence and the change in our flesh.  Whether privilege or powerless, it is a work outside of the Spirit of God.  Race says because of the social coloring of skin, beige, black, brown, red, yellow, white, we are valuable and worthy.

But, if we are following the social construct of race, we are walking in the opposite direction of Jesus Christ.  Race puts our flesh up front and says that if we are this “color,” then we are good, acceptable, blessed, righteous, pure, upright.  This is heresy.

It is not your average, run of the mill identity but competes with our identity in Christ Jesus.

Race say that there is no change, no room for improvement.  We are who the social coloring of our skin says that we are.  There is no wiggle room but these are our marching orders.  We can only fall in line as there is no place for those who would not surrender to the color- code.  But, we cannot be a disciple of Christ and race?  Either you are going to be a color or a Christian but you cannot be both– because Christ’s is not your average identity.

Race is not a Mirror

Image result for not a mirror image

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.

The Life Race Has Planned For Us

plan-laberinto“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, an American writer and lecturer, had it right.  Echoing the words of the writer of Proverbs, Campbell reminds us that there is a difference between the life that we have planned and the life that is planned for us.  That old sage said, “The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established” (19.21).  We can make lots of plans but the ones that matter will fall through if they are not in accordance with the will of God.

Likewise, race has a plan for us.  It has our prejudices lined up for us.  It has a stereotypical path prepared for us.  It offers a group meaning, a prepackaged reality that comes in bulk colors.  According to race, you and I can only come in socially colored beige/ black/ brown/red/ yellow/ white.

Six ways to be.  Six ways to be seen.  Only six ways to perceive the world and be understood.  As a woman, I cannot live with only six pairs of shoes so this option will never make sense to me.  This limited way of being is unnecessary when there is the possibility of at least seven billion other options.

With the number of human beings well- above seven billion as of March 2012, it seems absurd to try to fit them all into socially constructed categories.  We can’t all fit into races.  There isn’t a box, a community, country, continent or a color large enough to contain us all.  No, only God is able to accomplish such a feat.

And since race was never apart of God’s plan, it will fail.  The life race has planned for us is not the one that God is waiting to give us.

Racial Formation

20140208_BRP001_0No, this will not be about Beyonce’s new “Formation” video or its continued controversy.  If you are interested in a really thoughtful, perhaps too thoughtful interpretation of the song, click here.  If not, keep reading.

We talk a lot about what race says about us and others.  What we do not discuss as much are the ways in which our words shape us and our reality.  We quite literally change the way we see ourselves and others based on what we say about either.

While words inform us, they also inwardly form us.  The words of race advise us on the value of personhood, the possibility or impossibility of a relationship and what this person means to us.  However, this information can become a characterization; a liberal application of one word can cause us to only see her and him as a color.  We are then misinformed by race.

There are too many instances of this kind of mistaken identity.  “I see you as black so I thought you were dangerous.”  “I see you as white so I thought you hated me.”  “I see you as red so I thought you were an alcoholic.”  “I see you as yellow so I thought you were into computers or good at math.”  “I see you as beige so I thought that you mixed up about who you saw yourself to be.”

We have all of this racialized information but don’t appear to be any wiser or better because of it.  What are we doing with the words of race?  Why do we have them if it is clear that more often than not, they have us? We are left holding the bag after a poor call, a misunderstanding or worse, the death of an unarmed person.  We can only say, “Race… Race told me so.  Race told me to.”

But, what are we really saying about our lives and our bodies if we allow race to continue to touch us everywhere?  Is there no space where race is not allowed, where its words, its hands do not shape us?  And if not, why not?

Why do we continue to subject ourselves to racial formation?  Whose hands are these?  Whose words are these?  Who said that they were good for us?  And why do we continue to sit and allow our souls to be configured, patterned, molded, developed by this prejudicial point of view?

May we find the courage and the confidence to step out of line, to cross the color line, to break ranks and this social arrangement.  This is my prayer.  Amen.

 

 

Finding Ourselves When We Lose Race

not-until-we-are-lost-do-not-begin-to-find-ourselves-quote-1I know the story of race but I am not the storyteller.  I know the history of racism but I am not the historian.  I have had the experiences of prejudice and stereotyping but I am not their victim.  I know the world but I am not a citizen.  I do not belong in a racial category.

I do not come from race and it is important that I consistently make this declaration.  To be sure, it is a daily and on some days, an hourly commitment and rededication.  It is so easy to just throw up your hands and give up the search for me, to go back to what is and was.

But, I wasn’t born to pass on the story, to catalogue events, to repeat the traditions, to be socially colored black.  I was not purposed to live with race and to accept its signs.  I came to guide us out of race, to lose race by questioning its directions and social cues.  I found myself the day I asked, “Do I have to be black?”

Here are some questions that might help you on your journey toward racelessness:

  1.  What would you look like without race?  How would you identify yourself?
  2. Who are you apart from race?
  3. What do you mean without race?
  4. What is your purpose and place aside from race?
  5. What would your relationships look like if not for race, prejudice and stereotypes?
  6. How might your language be different without the experiences and expressions of race?
  7. If you did not believe race to be omnipresent, where would you go?
  8. If you did not think race was omnipotent, what would you do?
  9. If you did not accept that race is omniscient, what would you think of yourself?
  10. What does race do for you?

The secret is this: the questions are the answers.  Lose race and you will find yourself.