Tag Archives: raceless

Don’t stop talking about race

images

It is easy to reset, to move on to the next outrage, to the next shiny object.  “Ooh.  What’s that?”  We want to be distracted.  We hope that we can forget.

But, we cannot continue to let this be the case.  Race is a problem and it doesn’t just go away.  Instead, it is here to stay, stuck between our teeth, hanging on to our thin skin.  We carry it with us.  A word with sharp edges that we continue to wrap carefully and reuse, race is the weapon and the wound.

Still, we talk about race as if it is all we have, like it is all that we can say about ourselves, as if we are only flesh and blood.  We talk about race as if our lives depend on it, like we cease to exist if we are not socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white.  And though we cannot see the end of it (that is, post- racial), race is not our beginning. We cannot see past it but there is no future with race.

A socio- political construct, we talked ourselves into this belief in race and we will need to talk ourselves out of it.  You may not know this but we are not alone in this desire.  Recently, a number of books have been published that aim to discuss our relationship with race and empower readers to talk about it.  Please consider adding these to your reading list and your bookshelves:

Robin Diangelo, White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).

Carolyn B. Helsel, Anxious to talk about it: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully About Racism, (Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017).

Ijeoma Oluo, So you want to talk about race?, (New York, NY: Seal Press, 2018).

Derang Wing Sue, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015).

Shelly Tochluk, Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2010).

I need another word

 

See the source imageWe need new words.  I need new words, ones that roll off my tongue.  The colored ones get caught in my throat.  New being in Jesus Christ, these racialized ones don’t work for me.  They didn’t go down easily.  They didn’t stick to me.  I cannot make them a part of me, just take them when they treat me as foreign, my body no longer kin.

Race gets me beside myself, compared to someone else.  And I just want to be free.  I want this word off of me.  It has no right to rule over me.  I have something to say.  I have the final say in who I am and who I will be.  Still, race interrupts so frequently that I’ve grown tired and now it speaks for me.

Hold my tongue.

Hold my breath.

Die to self.

Die to who God created me to be.

Baptized with Christ, race should be dead to me.

Skin.

Ashes.

Dust.

I need to talk about it in the past tense.  Race was here.

America capitalizes on everything, even skin is its own kind of currency.  But, I am not buying it.  Change the market.  I want something else.  Because race is not another word for human.

No, I need a new word.

Belonging in Your Skin

“She is so comfortable in her own skin.”  It is an idiom used to describe persons who are confident and have a clear understanding of self and abilities, especially when interacting with other persons.  They are comfortable with being who they are.  While it is a familiar expression, I find it a strange one.  It suggests that we be comfortable in some one else’s, that it is possible to have an out of body experience.  Using someone else’s body is an option.

It’s just a figure of speech but what does it figure about us?  Why skin?  What does this expression suggest about human being?  With America’s long obsession with skin, it warrants a closer look.

If there is one place persons should feel comfortable and at home is in their own bodies.  But so often, we are not?  Not limited to the social construct of race and the desired or undesired features associated with it, we are often ill- at- ease with our own eyes, nose, lips, legs, feet, height and weight.  But, why?  Why do we so often want to change who we are before we have even discovered who she is?  Before we have the answer, we are already questioning ourselves down to our hair follicles.

No matter the source for our angst or uncertainty, it must be said that these feelings are not a measure of self- awareness but come by way of comparison.  We are comfortable with ourselves based on the other bodies around us and if we deem ourselves their equal or better.  It is not as if we get to choose the skin we are in.  Consequently, we must reconsider this notion of belonging.

Because belonging in your skin should be a given.  Where else will your bones go?  What else will hold up your frame?  We cannot peel it off or try on another, despite our attempts at skin lightening treatments.  And belonging is not found on this layer or level.

We are not a member of our epidermis.  It is merely a covering and it is more than a cover up when we begin to reject our own skin.  It is skin, protecting us from the elements and should not be the basis of a social experiment.  It is skin, regulating our body temperature and not a determinant for our treatment of our selves or someone else.  It is skin that ages, wrinkles, cracks and needs to be washed.  And identity based on it is all washed up.

Our skin belongs to us but not in the way that race would have it.  Race says our sense of belonging, whether we are in or out, accepted or rejected is based on our flesh.  Instead, our skin belongs to us in the way that our body cannot live without it.  It is the means by which we survive physically– not socially.

These racialized identities, these skin identities are non- God- given ones.  Though a social reality, as Christians, our belief in race makes no theological sense.  Race continues to thrive in our minds despite its ability to be lived out honestly in our bodies.  Why are we so comfortable with that?

 

A Race-less Vocabulary List


Race is not prescriptive. Race causes us to lose sight of each other quite literally. We are missing out on love, healing, relationship, truth… all because we cannot see each other.  We speak as if race has always been, as if we will cease to exist, turn into dust, fade into oblivion if we stop referring to ourselves in colors, shades and skin tones.  But, colors are not names.  Colors are colors.  They offer the meanings we give them, no different than traffic lights.  And I have seen the light.

The color does not change who or what or why it exists.  It does not exist because of the color but because in the case of the light, we need order, direction, safety.  Our human variableness is imagined then.  We are all the same: “You put your pants on one leg at a time just like me.”  We have same the needs and desires.  You say, “Tomato”; I say, “Tomato.”  Though met differently and at different times, it’s all the same.

This is the problem with human beings: We think that being human is a problem.  We take issue with being, simply existing.  We surmise that there must be something more to this.  Poking at flesh, we create words to make us stick out.  Race is no different.

I hope I have properly grounded this list in a strong argument for its recitation and memory.  I offer these words to combat the idea that the language of race traps us, cements our fate, locks us in an battle of us against them battle “forever and ever. Amen.”  There is an end to race and it is on the tip of our tongues.

Repeat after me.

  1. Skin (flesh, epidermis)
  2. Colors (as in crayons because one’s country is not synonymous with the social coloring of one’s skin)
  3. Sociopolitical construct (race as human- made, as idol)
  4. Racial eliminativism (the belief that race and racial groups do not exist)
  5. Racial eliminativist (those who seek to eradicate the idea, systemic implementation of race and to challenge/ thwart a racialized existence)
  6. Racialized (To view life through the lens of race and to color- code one’s existence, experiences and interactions)
  7. Aracial (without racial distinctions: Aracial anthropology, theology)
  8. Raceless (without race: syn: aracial; raceless gospel, raceless Christianity)
  9. Pre- racial (The belief that race is not a creator or co- creator with God, that human beings existed before race.)
  10. Race skeptic or race atheist (One who does not believe in race, who doubts and/or questions the basis or rationale for existence based on the social coloring of skin)

A New Revised Serenity Prayer

See the source imageGod, grant me the serenity to accept that people are not the same,

Courage to change my perspective and to challenge my prejudices,

And the wisdom to celebrate our differences.

Amen.