Tag Archives: race-less identity

I am a race atheist

Before you wave me off, dismiss my faith system or the lack thereof, hear me out.  Give me a chance, an opportunity to make my case.  I assure you: This is not what I thought that I would be saying.

I used to believe in race, with all my heart, from my head down to my toes with natural hair and African- inspired clothing.  No specific country to call my own, I claimed the entire continent.  (Note of clarification: Black is a color– not a country or continent, though we have made the two synonymous.  Black people are from… Africa?  White people are from?  Yellow people are from?  Red people are from?  It breaks down very quickly.)  I tried to make it work and to work it out.  I wanted it to make sense for me and I had no reason to suspect that it would not.  Because we have always been colored people or so I thought.

I believed in blackness and being black, in whiteness and its privileges and so on for every so- called color of the human “rainbow.”  I believed that my experiences were color- coded, that my skin was the beginning and end of me, that my epidermis was all that mattered, that it made the most sense and brought the most meaning to my life.  But, I was wrong.  Still, I need you to know that I thought this was right, that learning that I was black and how to live with it was the meaning of life.  But, I was wrong.

I was wrong about race because race was wrong about me.  Race has our humanity all wrong.  We are not colored beings but human beings.  Race, a capitalist sociopolitical construct, is an excuse, a scapegoat in a long line of excuses and scapegoats for the unjust ways that we choose to live with and relate to each other.  It is the means by which we get the blood off of our hands.

We say, “Race made me do it.”  But, we can also say, “Money made me do it.”  “My faith made me do it.”  “My gender made me do it.”  “The devil made me do it.”  But, really it is our flesh and its cravings for power and dominance that makes us do it.

Our humanity is what we make it.

***

I’ve been called a n—-.  Born in the South, I heard it first at home.  I heard family members being called a n— at home.  Hatred begins at home.  Our self- hatred starts in the mouths of our parents.

I cannot be sure as to the reason for this name- calling.  Said both in anger and in fun, I cannot attest to whether it was used solely to inoculate as it was also used as a term of endearment.  “My n—.”  A strange expression then and now.

It is a word that my family was given and they had no interest in questioning it.  They didn’t think to give it back, to reject it.  It is a primary way of relating in the world and understanding ourselves.  We were n—, then Negro, then colored, then black, then Afro- American, then African American, then black, then black and brown people, people of color again.  We still call ourselves n—.  Race offers nothing new, no rebirth, no regeneration.

Unclear of its value but certain that they needed it and that I could not live without it, they passed it down.  There was no new name and no way to see myself differently.  My relationship with self was an expression of those created in American slavery.  Changing the words, ridding myself of racialized language would be the start of changing my way of relating, of forming community, of reconciling past and present.

To be sure, there is no motivation for changing it.  It is the way of the world, the way things are.  We are on this color wheel but I wanted to get off.  Still, most surmise that we cannot change it, that race knows us better than we know ourselves, that race knows us before we know ourselves.  But, then my faith in Christ did something I did not expect; my new identity in Christ began to challenge my racial identity.  They were not one in the same and I was being asked to choose between being a person of color and a child of God.  Two creators, two gospels, two heavens and hells (one segregated), they are two different belief systems.

The two are not complementary, synonymous or serving in supporting roles in this grand narrative. No, we must choose between the ways of this world and the ways of the kingdom coming.  There is a Person coming that will not identify with us based on the social coloring of skin and it is time that we come to see that.

Today, I am a race atheist.  I don’t believe it.  I don’t buy it.  I do not see as race sees.  I believe that there is so much more to our humanity and race doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Only Human

Image result for only human imageIt seems that we are not satisfied with our humanity, that there is always a need to be something more than human, super human, a special set of humans.  In our quest, we often attempt to reduce the value and visibility of others.  Because we cannot be more human unless we make others less human.  We get our power by taking theirs away.  And there’s really nothing super or special about that.

Instead, it is an expression of pride and selfishness.  It is childish to believe that we are the only ones that should be seen, that everyone else is in the way, that the whole earth is mine and I don’t have to share, that I am God’s only child.

It is a strange desire that we would want to be something more than those around us, that we would create categories of exclusion that would make us less common or ordinary.  It is an awkward expression of our humanity: creating differences, hoarding the earth, making up problems, burning bridges, segregating ourselves, cheating some to enrich the lives of others.  Still, we cannot get away from the truth that we are all the same.

For all of our attempts at creating differences and maintaining them, we are all obviously, plainly, nothing more than human.  No matter what we attach to or associate with ourselves, Paul was right, “There is only one flesh for human beings” (First Corinthians 15.39).  Despite the claims of the social construct of race, we are only human and always family.

 

 

Race is but a candidate

Image result for voteThe election season is almost over and we’ve seen more changes than winter, spring, summer and fall combined.   We can’t prepare for it.  We can’t plan for it.  Exhausted by the debates and the news reports that follow, I think that I am experiencing political fatigue.  I am counting down the days until it’s over. 

But, then I thought, “It won’t be over.”  There will be another campaign and another and another.  In our capitalistic society, there is always something to buy into and someone else that we believe can speak for us.  We will hit the reset button, looking for someone else to live through.  Race is no different.

As Christians, there is a daily battle, an inner debate between spirit and flesh.  To be sure, it is a contest; winner take soul.  The two sides are campaigning for our vote, our pledge of allegiance, our support.  Both say that they will work hard for us, that they are on our side, that the stakes are high.  “Who we are and will be is on the line.    Our children’s futures and the generations to come will be impacted.”

The Flesh Party, shall we say, is represented by the social construct of race.  While there are others that compete for our identity, the social construct of race uses all mediums to connect with us.  It even makes stops at our family gatherings and churches.  It will attempt to pass itself off as another member of the family or worse still, our God, coming in our favorite shade to identify with us. 

However, race does not really connect with us.  It will not represent us but the interests of white supremacy, which is not a people but a political ideology used to place power and wealth into the hands of those voted most likely to succeed.  A rigged system, there is only one color on the ballot and all votes are not counted.  No democratic process here; this is not for all the people.

So, before you and I go claiming race, repeating its prejudices and accepting its stereotypes, we should be reminded that race is but a candidate, representing a system of privilege and not people.  Yes, peel the sticker off the bumper of your car.  Take the sign off your lawn.  Stop checking the box.  And consider all of your options.  Race is just one of them.

Beyond Black & White

Image result for beyond black and white manning marable

 

Beyond black and white.  It is the title of a popular book by Manning Marable.  He begins his introduction this way:

“Black and white. As long as I can remember, the fundamentally defining feature in my life, and the lives of my family, was the stark reality of race.  Angular and unforgiving, race was so much more than the background for relationships.  It was the social gravity which set into motion our expectations and emotions, our language and dreams.  Race seemed far more powerful than distinctions made between people based in language, nationality, religion and income.  Race seemed granite- like, fixed and permanent, as the center of the social universe.”

Writing out our experiences with race and sharing them with others is important.  But, defining what race means to us will change the way that we talk about race.  Marable’s words are true and challenging.  He positions race above our mere table talk and private jokes.

So fixed is this idea of race that it seems set in stone, unchangeable and immovable.  We believe that race is permanent and since there is no changing race’s beliefs about “us” and “them,” then we are hopeless to change anything of our selves.  We will always be beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white– unless race falls from our mental skies.

This is how we can get beyond race; it is to lower its standing in our minds.  In order to move beyond black and white, we must not to lose sight of our differences but not allow race to define or value them.  Race is a poor scale.

Moving beyond what race is doing to us in order to discuss the ways in which we have empowered race is a noteworthy cause.  I mean, who put race in its place before we set it in stone?  In order to break the chains of this social oppression, we must look at our own hands.  I challenge us to look inside of our minds and examine what we think of race.  What makes it so worthy to describe us?  Why is it not just the center of our universe but a universe all its own?  Why is it so important that we stick with race and not move beyond black and white?

 

Loosen Up

Loosen-up-your-gripI feel the need to say again and again that you are not made up of a color, that you cannot be summed up by your skin.  There is more to you and this is a lesser part.  Of all that God is created on your body, still we focus on the layer that covers it all.  Still, we are not interested in going deeper, intrigued by what we do not know about ourselves.  While there is much that is unknown in outer space, there is more to be explored in our inner space.  Don’t you want to see who’s underneath?

And this is a meaning imagined for you are not socially colored beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white.  This is not even the real you.  Race does not even come close to being you.  Don’t you want to know who you are?  Don’t you want to meet her/ him?  How sad it would be to live as a stranger, never meeting one’s self.

But, this does not have to be.  We need only wiggle around a little.  Question race a little.  Just ask one question and the box that it holds you will immediately feel differently.

We have become comfortable with the social positions of race, used to its creases, the folds, the ways in which we were prepackaged to fit.  We only know how to think of ourselves within the confines of race. Nevertheless, I hope that we would begin to live a life that breaks the seal.

Don’t allow race to box you in or to box you up.  Push back.  Create dents.

Don’t buy into the illusion that this category, this box is neater, safer and allows for easy identification and belonging.  A box is a box.  It is for purposes temporary.  A box is used for storage, often times when moving from one place to another.  Well, where are we going with race?

And when do you plan to arrive?  Open yourself up to the possibility of life without race.  Shake off the dust of its history.

Open your mouth and you will open the box.  Don’t say what fits but go where there is room for you.  Let me warn you.  You’ll need to loosen up.