Tag Archives: post- racial life

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.

 

Numb

imagesHow do you feel?  How do experience your self, your life and that of others?  How do you know that it is real and exact and true?

And how can you feel when race gets in between us and our skin?  Talk about getting under our skin.  Race separates us from our bodies and picks at our skin.

Cases of unusual force put pressure on our skin.  Incidents of police brutality, without a stitch of evidence against a suspected body, tears holes in our skin.  If this is the fabric of our humanity, where is the seamstress?  Call for the tailor.

Because we need to make some adjustments.  We need to be fitted again for our humanity and our relationships.  But, please don’t continue to stretch our skin in attempts to make it fit a racial body.  It is a uncomfortable fit.

In fact, race has pressured and picked at our skin for so long that race has numbed us.  Now, we feel what others feel about us.  We have yet to dwell in our own bodies, to move into our own house, to live in our flesh; the segregation sign still hanging on our eyes and minds.

We are living in and through the eyes of others and they are eyes that blink, tear up and dry up, that need to be rubbed and closed.  These eyes squeeze us tight and shut us out. Instead, we will need to see ourselves with our own eyes.

When we put race down, we may have to feel around for awhile.  But, at least, we will find ourselves.

 

Beyond

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While I understand the angst, disgust and frustration of those who hear the word post- racial and point quickly to the latest example of racialized injustice (also known as hubris, selfishness, self and other- hatred and self- deception), I struggle with communicating my need to move past the social construct of race.  I am tired of building it up, of holding it together, of supporting race.  I am so tired of race being a part of what holds me and you together because it doesn’t.

Instead, it tears me and you apart while pointing the finger at us.  You did it.  No, you did it.  And yet, it is true.  It is not race at all but it is me and you who construct race as the reason for our differences and our not coming together.

This is why I don’t want to talk about race anymore.  I want to talk about our shared humanity.  Because if we are talking about race, then we are not talking about our humanity.  My external appearance is not what makes me a human being because I lose my hair and my skin is wrinkling and my eyes itch.  They all change; my humanity does not.

Race is not synonymous with identity or personhood.  It is no substitute for being or becoming.  It is not a way of relating to ourselves or our neighbors.  And I am simply tired of hearing persons say that it is and it is the only way to be, see or do any of these things.

My hope comes in three parts: prayer, desire and craving. It is this need to create a community without race.  I don’t want and I can’t want anything else.  It is the way that I was made.

I know that this need may not be shared.  So, I am not asking for persons to hurry their conversations with self or others.  Take the time to figure out what you are saying and what is being said about you.  Listen and respond for yourself.

However, I am concerned about the repetition of what we have done against each other, said again and again not in hopes of harvesting insight but in order to harden ourselves.  We repeat the stories in order to toughen up, to close off and to close ranks.

I am not demanding that we keep silent and not challenge those who commit deeds of hatred, that we fearfully acquiesce and believe the lie that change happens without difficult conversations and hard emotions.  Yes, do all of this and that and more.  But, when you have, then what?

Are we even prepared for life after race?  Do we have a timeline for which it all should occur?  Have we constructed goals that might assist in our peacefully and respectfully being together?  Who and how will we measure them?  And how long should it take?  How much time are we going to give ourselves to complete the task of reconciling?

My name indicates my position; stars shine above us.  But, they are also out of reach, beyond us.  I think that I have been gifted with a sense of sight that is above and more importantly beyond what is being said and seen about all of us in matter of race.

While writing, I am reading Howard Thurman’s seminal work The Inward Journey.  Not surprisingly, I just read these words:  “The life inherent is moving always toward goals and ends that are sensed only when realized.  And beyond all these there may be a life of mankind which is more than individuals and groups but in which there is the built- in purpose, aim and goal.”

What I am seeking and what I will ultimately find is beyond me.  It is the life of the Spirit, beyond earth, beyond flesh, beyond eyes and beyond our imaginations.

 

There is more to life

urlLife is not always a fight.  It is not all struggle and wrestling, climbing and striving, pulling and pushing.  Still, there are persons who move from argument to argument, from injustice to injustice, from one offense to the next.  If we would listen to them, they would have us believe that there are no respites or rest periods, that there is no peace or justice.  They can see no end to the fight.

All they know how to do is fight.  They only know the words of an argument and of their offense.  No rehearsal is needed; their victimhood has become their identity. These persons only know how to take a stand and they feel that sitting down is bowing out.  And if there were a victory, they would not recognize or accept it.  The win would not be enough and if they would start a fight or rehearse an old one just to feel normal.

But, there is more to life than wins and losses, than competitions and competitors.  We were not created to be grouped as us and them.  This is the way that race sees us and we have allowed this social construct, this human- made lens to take our sight.

Life is not fighting against us.  Life is for us.  God did not create us in order to oppose us.  And if we believe this, then we are living the racialized life not the spiritual life.

So, take off your gloves and come out of your corner.  The life that Christ came to give and is always available is abundant (John 10.10).

We made the rules

images“History is made by those who break the rules.”

~ An author unknown

If you want to get me fired up, just start talking about how helpless we are in terms of race. If you want to get me energized, just start telling me what I can’t do because of racism, prejudice and stereotypes.  Start spouting off experiences and examples, facts, quotes and statistics that seek to attack my humanity, to limit the possibility of me, to prove that I don’t have a chance if race has a say and position me as an eternal victim of race.

If you are trying to give me a “reality check,” to put me in my social place, I assure you that it will have the opposite effect. Instead of cowering, bowing my head and surrendering to the oppressive reality of race, my chest will poke out.  Uh, uh.  Not here.  Not me.  Not ever.

While I agree that the social construct of race has power, that its presence is systemic, I do not believe that I, or any other human being, is powerless to change it.  I believe that we can change the system, destroy the system even because the operators are human.  And it just takes one person to not put on the uniform, to call in sick, to not stand in place, to not report for duty, to break the habit of prejudicial relationships, to challenge and question the authority of stereotypes, to take a stand and talk back to this history of hatred.

Our belief in race and participation in this social faith is mass- produced.  When we submit to race, we place our lives on a conveyor belt and our lives are boxed up according to its stereotypes.  But, this conveyor belt of uniformity can be stopped.  You and I can turn away from race and run in the opposite direction.  Our lives can cause a jam that will allow others to fall off and have a chance at authenticity and individuality.

We need only speak the truth and in so doing assert our position as a child of God: The only all- powerful being is God. Race is not all- powerful.  The only all- knowing being is God. Race cannot, does not and will never every know me deeply, fully or truly.  The only always present being is God.  We can rid ourselves of race.

We can stop.  We can say stop.  We can tell race, “You cannot go any further.  You do not run my life.”

The fact is this is our game.  We made the race cards.  We pass them out.  We play them.

We made the rules of race so we can break the rules of race, abolish them even.  We don’t have to hate or prejudge.  We don’t have to segregate ourselves.  We can love across cultures.

We can cross “the color line.”  We can erase it if we really wanted to.  It’s written in self- regulating pencil not stone.

We can share our power and resources.  We can stop cheating and stealing.  We can stop manipulating and dominating.  We can change the game.  It just takes one to say, “Let’s play something else.”