Editor’s note: “Look Back” is a series designed to highlight articles from the Good Faith Media archives that remain relevant or historically interesting. If you have an article from our archives that you’d like us to consider including in this series, please email your suggestion to email@example.com. A version of this article first appeared at EthicsDaily.com on April 9, 2012. At the time of publication, Thomas was coordinator for the Center for Ministerial Leadership at the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.
We believe we are born into race and behave as if we are preprogrammed by it, predisposed to being racially motivated.
We wouldn’t hate or stereotype or segregate or kill if the person had not been Black, white, red, yellow, brown or beige. If they had only been different, if they had only been the same as me, then it wouldn’t have happened.
I wouldn’t have said it. They wouldn’t be seen as this or that. It’s not my fault. It’s just who they are. It’s just who I am. It’s the way of the world. Race made me do it.
We speak as if we have no say, no will, no power at all when it comes to race. It controls us. It tells us what to do and say and believe. Race tells us who we are. We know nothing apart from it and no one – not even ourselves.
We are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that race creates and re-creates. We are not our own persons but we are possessed, prepossessed, predestined, our lives predetermined by race.
We say, “We didn’t create race. We were born this way. We were born into this situation, this predicament, this way of being. We didn’t choose our color. We didn’t draw the color line.”
Therefore, we conclude we are not to blame for what we do. We have no other choice. There is no other way. We must be racist. We must be a segregationist. We must be a token. We must be angry and fearful and silent and judgmental. We must hate them and they must hate us.
It is our natural right, our inheritance. God gave it to us, right?
Race tells us where to stand and whom to stand with and against. We cannot move. We cannot cross or better yet erase the color line. It holds everything in place; it keeps everyone in their place.
Besides, where else is there to go? Could we live without race and would I have to consult my race, the social coloring of my skin, in order to do it?
We don’t know what else to say. We are afraid to say anything different, to think that there could be anything different to say, that there is anything more to people than the social construct of race. These words were given to us. All we can do is repeat them because we believe that we will have no one to talk to if we don’t.
But, the words of race are not the totality of speech. Race is not all that there is to say about humanity; it is not the summation of our identity. It is not that if we stop speaking of persons in color-coded language that we will suddenly become mute.
We will not lose our voice; in fact, it is in ridding our tongues of race that we will find it. There are more words for us. Race does not have the last say. Race does not have the last word. Race does not have to speak for you or me.
We live as if there is nothing and no one who could save us from it. We do not know and cannot perceive a life apart from race. It has become our mind, our heart, our will. But race is not the only way of life though it has become ours.
Today, I pray for the renewing of our minds so that we might come to know ourselves more fully in Jesus Christ and less as race’s color-coded bodies, that we would see more of ourselves and less of race.
I pray that we would die to our racial selves and be awakened to our new nature in Jesus Christ, trusting that there is life after this social death, that there is life after race.