Tag Archives: race-less

Not My Problem

Image result for not my problem image

I am at a meeting of clergy for three days of specialized training in interim ministry.  Day one focuses on theories.  On the second day, the facilitator offered a few tools and way too many personal stories.  But, when we began a discussion about power and he wanted to move to his next slide, the group of mostly European Americans wanted to say more.  He sat down in his chair uncomfortably.  He had not prepared for this.

Without prompting, they begin to critique their own privileges and then someone said, “And we need to listen to those who don’t share the same experience.”  Another clergywoman saw this as an opportunity and began, “I am a black woman.  I am a minority.  I am powerless.”  She is perhaps 20 years my senior and of a different time.  She bears the scars to prove it and most of our colleagues can remember when she got them.  I had only read about them and watched documentaries.

But, I realized that it was not only age or time that created distance between us.  I could not agree with her statement.  And while the social construct of race would suggest that we think the same and share the same beliefs, it left me no other choice but to challenge its omniscience.  My heart was pounding by now; the words were throbbing in my head.  “Let us out,” they seemed to say.  I am not one to hold back truth so I let them go.

“I do not identify with the social construct of race.  I don’t believe that human beings are colored people, that there are beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white people.  I would not describe myself as a minority as we are all counted as human beings.  And I am not powerless.  I enter the world with power; consequently, no one can give or take my power away.”

So, apparently, I am an anomaly.  My comments were met with silence– though we have a Word- God who affirms our being down to the hairs of our head (Matthew 10.30).  Afterwards, another clergywoman thanked me for sharing my perspective.  She wished she could see as I did.  For me, she, too, was expressing powerlessness.   “These are not my eyes.  I am not in control of what I see.  I can’t see anything else.”

She went on to talk about the fights that she had engaged in for the rights of others.  I expressed that I had also chosen not to start there.  I do not have to live on a battlefield.  I have rejected the fights of the past, decided not to enlist or allow anyone to force me to sign up.  No human being can tell me who I am or am not– and I don’t have to fight for my identity.

She started to credit her generation for my position but this too was rejected.  God had given me this vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.18, NRSV).  This was not my problem because I accepted God’s promise.  I pray that you would accept it as well.

Receive this holy vision.  This is my prayer.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

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

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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?


Putting Race In Its Place

“We must constantly and critically explain the purpose, perversity and persistence of race as a relatively new category in modern history if we are to address racism effectively.”

~ David Roediger, How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon

I am reminded often of the importance of this daily call to discipleship with Christ and apart from the social construct of race.  I understand that it is an emotional and deeply personal journey with mirrors at seemingly every turn.  Even when we look away and try to focus on something else, we still must face ourselves. In America, we must ask, “How do I see the social construct of race and how does race influence the way that I see others?”

It is important for persons who are seeking fullness in Christ to begin to talk not about what race has done to us but what race is doing through us. If we are to be the body of Christ, then a complete and thorough examination of the impact of its racialization and subsequent segregation is imperative.  We must move the conversation inward, no longer pointing fingers but looking at our own hands.

It is safe to talk about race as a historical reality. It allows us to put distance between us and to keep the problem and the solution in the past.  But, race is not an old problem, which strips us of the excuse that it is  complicated and the belief that it will always be with us.

If we have lived without the social construct of race before, we can live without it again. Race is a new problem; human beings have been around longer.  So, we must stop talking about race and the ways that it has used us because we have employed it as a personal reference.

This is the nature of this soul journey toward freedom from race. It is the clear understanding that it is everywhere and always near, that it grossly distorts our self- image while holding itself up as a mirror, that it will attempt to get ahead of us if we don’t keep up the pace. We must put race in its place– behind us and never in front of our shared humanity.

White Privileges Denied

Image result for deny privilegeI wonder what our lives would be like if those who are privileged by race would deny these social entitlements.  What change could be brought about if when persons are offered a pass, a perk, a protection or the benefit of doubt, they would reject it?  How might we be challenged if we did not accept what we did not earn, if we rejected those things that put others at a disadvantage?  What if we no longer feigned ignorance or blindness, if we stopped looking the other way for “us” and not “them”?

What kind of people could we be if when the privilege of whiteness was presented, we said, “Privileges denied”?  Because we provide its currency.  We are the medium of transaction.  We open the door, give the leg up, shake the hand and wink.  We give them more while paying less and less attention to who we become in the process.

We are cheaters, thieves even.  Robbing from “them” to pay for “us.”  Race is only a scapegoat used to cover up our greed and need for power.

I wonder if persons would be willing to post a sign on the doors of their businesses, schools, shared community spaces, government buildings, places of worship and homes that inform those who enter that we don’t accept white privileges here.  I imagine that persons would have to prove themselves and make their way without them.  Justifying their place in the world and their position of authority would get a whole lot harder.

Patting pockets, flipping through wallets or searching purses, what might we pull from them to cover our expenses, to explain our position in the world, to justify our preferential treatment.  If we take the socially colored white skin away and say, we refuse to privilege socially colored white skin here, what then?  What do we have then?

Tell us (because we all accept it) that the limit has been exceeded far too many times and for too long, that we can no longer afford its costs, that the card has expired and won’t be renewed.  We simply cannot afford to be people of any color any more.