This year’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Summit featured author Trillia Newbell. Her book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity is discussed and she offers practical steps for reconciliation in relationship.
There is no end to the miseries caused by our belief in the social construct of race. There continues to be incidents of racial profiling, racist practices and racialized views of our humanity and its cultures. I could write about an incident involving the impact of our belief in race every single day of my life for the rest of my life as there seems to be no end to persons who choose to wear inappropriate outfits without thought for its meaning, who handle children inappropriately at pool parties and in classrooms, who stop and kill persons under questionable circumstances.
I do not write to excuse, ignore or apologize for such damnable actions. Persons who believe in the “Ferguson effect” or any other excuse to avoid tough conversations about how we treat other human beings needs to keep reading. I write not to push race aside but to get ahead of race. I write to change the power structure, to overthrow race from the seat of my identity. I write to veto its prejudices and stereotypes. I write because I’m tired of race ruling us.
So long as we believe in race, we will continue to have trouble with who we are and who our neighbor is. So long as we continue to believe in the prideful idea, the ridiculous imaginations that our physical skin and its perceived color somehow make us greater or lesser than someone else, we will continue to hurt others and harm our identity. So long as we continue to see people as the problem and not our perspectives, we will continue to have these circular conversations and to see this race cycle repeat itself generation after generation. But, don’t get tired.
I do not promise that the practice of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ, the belief that our lives and the love of our God is not defined by the social coloring of skin, will bring instant harmony or an Age of Peace. I make no claims that our relationships will miraculously change. What I can promise is that if we don’t get tired of challenging race and its progeny, if we don’t use race as an excuse for not building relationships across cultures, if we don’t get tired of calling race a liar, then we can reap the benefits of this good news and a truer, more fuller identity in Christ Jesus.
Don’t get tired. Let the good news of God’s race-less love ring in your ears.
Today, persons are celebrating Halloween. I’m not one of them and I have heard arguments for and against it. That’s not the point of my writing. Whatever the purpose, I just don’t see the point. I can buy my son candy anytime and he doesn’t have to dress up for it.
Nevertheless, I thought that it would be a good time to address some truths about race that continue to haunt us (Insert ghost howling sound here.). Like Halloween, we are very much informed on race, its beginnings and social meanings; still, we continue to entertain it.
It really is scary to believe that we could know that race is a social construct and not a biological reality yet continue to behave towards one another as we do. While you are choosing which homes and businesses to target, I mean visit, take a moment to consider this list. You may not be able to read it later because you won’t be able to sit still after eating so much sugar. Trust me, you should read it now.
- Race is a lie and human beings made it up. Still, we use it to justify all forms of abuse and death, oppression and privilege.
- Race is matter of pride. By this, I do not mean racial pride but personal arrogance hidden under the cloak of this social construct. We simply think that we are better than others and race is used as a means to this belief.
- Race is a scapegoat. Race is not the real issue but our relationships. We have used race to avoid the real work of forming cross- cultural communities for hundreds of years. There is no excuse for letting our skin prevent us from getting close to each other.
- Race has a life span. It is kept alive by our mouths. It is not eternal. If we do not give voice to it, it cannot survive from generation to generation.
- Race is not a mystery. It is not some spooky ghost that invades our lives when we are born. We need only close the book and stop telling the story.
These are the words of well- known pastor and translator of The Message, Rev. Eugene Peterson. It is a fair warning though not considered frequently enough. I use to pride myself on the number of words that I could type in a minute. Who knows what the count is for many of us these days with tweets, blogs and minute- by- minute Facebook updates. There is no end to our words.
Isn’t it ironic that we seem to be saying more than ever but that our communication is greatly reduced and has not improved in meaning or depth? In fact, we are not saying much that is new; instead, we are finding new says to say the same old, same old. In some cases, this is good; with regard to relationships across cultures and matters of race, it has been tongue- tying.
Now more than ever, I am becoming increasingly aware that our world is made up of words. It is an old and obvious truth, recorded in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. It is the record of the speaking God, who used words to create, who left unsaid nothing beautiful or majestic. I have read it numerous times but my consciousness was dim to the fullness of this reality.
Of course, as Christians, we believe in the God who is the Word made flesh (John 1.14). In some measured sense, I understand this but certainly not fully intellectually and theologically. I believe that we are people who live by words and that we are walking words, that our names have power and can purpose our lives for good or ill. And with the recurrent violence that everyone is talking about, the power of the words we use is increasingly more evident.
Thanks to social media, we share what we feel and how we are doing at lightning speed. We have so much to say about ourselves and others. I wonder what this says about the value of our words when we don’t keep some of them to ourselves or save some for later. To be sure, words are powerful. They have caused wars, deaths incalculable and tragedies unthinkable. We learn more quickly of embarrassing moments and the missteps of those who wish that there was a rock that they could hide under that didn’t have Wi-Fi.
What is the matter when we continue to speak words that hurt us and clearer still, that silence us and keep us from seeing ourselves? What is wrong with our speaking when we lose our voice and become a puppet of the very words we speak, when our tongue becomes the strings pulled? I believe this to be so when it comes to race.
We started using these words hundreds of years ago against others and for our benefit. Now, they don’t benefit any of us. We have lost the meaning of ourselves with their use. So, what do we say now? What do we do now that we are employed by race, now that race has our tongue?
I say we quit, that we stop speaking of our humanity on these terms. What say you?
It’s about hate versus love. We will have to choose whether we are going to live in hatred or walk in love. Before hatred kills, it cripples and without love, we will never walk unimpeded.
It’s about us versus them. We will have to choose to accept that there is only us. There is no them and there never has been. We are all in this together, unable to be separated, segregated. Our humanity is shared. There is no one who is more or less human than another.
It’s about pain versus forgiveness. We have hurt each other but returning hurt for hurt leaves everyone in pain. It does not heal anyone.
It’s about a lie versus the truth. Race is a lie and we made it up. It is the lie we tell to ourselves and about others. But, it’s time to tell the truth. And the truth is, we are all created equally to to be loved by all of us. We must not let pain have the last word. Let forgiveness say something.