“God looked over everything He had made and said it was good.”
Looked over. Observed. Recognized. It was good. Everything.
I will often ask people a question during Diversity and Racial equity trainings that I do in faith-based settings:
Me: Close your eyes and imagine every Bible character you have heard of, every crowd scene in the Bible, feast, dinner, wedding scene. How many of the people that you imagined in your minds eye looked like me?
Me: You mean to tell me that over centuries of history from Genesis to Revelation you couldn’t imagine that anyone that existed back then looked like me? What did they look like then?
How is it then, that people of all races cannot imagine any Black people in the setting of Bible?
We need context...Time for a history lesson.
The word America originated as a geographical location on a map. There is speculation that it was named in honor of an Italian Explorer Amerigo Vaspucci. It then came to describe the region in the West to explore and colonize. The colonizers went to the West, the America’s. They were Spaniards and White Europeans who displaced native inhabitants. As they populated and conquered each other, the term became synonymous with power and politics of the White Europeans. The racial group who took privilege away from other racial groups in the name of power and independence, adopted the term as a global descriptor, nationally representative of themselves and their descendants and their values. "American".
American can be a fluid term...sort of...it depends. It can mean Northerner, Southerner, West Coast, East Coast, Union, Confederate, or...White.
Do you realize every other race in America has a modifier in front of it? Let’s see, Asian-American, Latin-American, African-American , but not...White.
White and American have been amalgamated so much so that Whites don’t have to mention their European Ancestry. Whites from America say, I’m American-a nationality synonymous with their skin color. Sure, within certain contexts, you may hear “My grandmother is Italian, Irish or German or Polish”. Domestically you may hear, Texan or Yankee and but in International social settings American generally means White person from the United States.. This is not based on any premise other than White Supremacy, because in actuality America was not built by Whites nor is it a White nation, (hmm or maybe it is)
Similar to how the U.S. conflates White and American, the terms Christianity and American are often synonymous. This actually follows the logic of history that you hopefully read a few paragraphs ago.
When you conflate Christianity and American , by default, you conflate Whiteness with Christianity, appropriating Christianity to Whiteness. And when you co-sign on that appropriation, because post-racial America has such a spectacularly harmful history towards us, you do emotional and societal harm to Black people and Indigenous people of Color via Christianity.
This is what a post-racial America has framed for it’s citizens through racial misuse of the Bible.
So, back at the Diversity training we can see why the audience only imagine White people in the Christian Bible.
Everyone: God is not concerned about color. Good doesn’t see color. Color is divisive. Etc.etc.
Me: Ahh, there it is. Let me say first, no, He is not concerned, because there is nothing concerning about color.
Why is color something to be concerned about? Why is it divisive when a person of color brings it up? How is something that is biologically physically present be inherently divisive? Where did this narrative come from?
Everyone: “In Christ there is no Greek or Jew nor male or female.”
The Evangelical Christian church often mis-uses that verse as an excuse to say that God does not see color, so now colored people you are worthy of my American Evangelism. Too blunt? More on that in a sec, but this verse has nothing to do with race or color. It has to do with two systems of belief. The Bible is a Middle Eastern book, authored by mostly Jews and the authors use terminology for their audience that describes two belief systems- Jew and Non-Jew(Gentile). When the apostle Paul, Hebrew, wrote that verse he was not saying to White people- God doesn’t see color. He was saying that in Christianity there are no longer two factions of Jew and non-Jew. In Christ, Christianity, there is one body of believers from both factions and he spelled out both of them. This verse has nothing at all to do with skin color or regional ancestry. What it is doing is erasing the pre-requesite for access to the Jewish God, Jehovah through Jewish heritage. (this is a lot of Bible stuff, but it’s important...context remember?)
Speaking of God and the Bible, race did not exist in there. Nationality, skin color, tribalism and religion did, but race did not. Race truly is a man-made construct. Specifically a White European imagination almost entirely. It was created to construct social limits, to rank humanness and then eventually differentiate human civil rights, privilege and legal rights
Why no mention of color? Because Gentiles and Jews came in many shades from all over the world at that time in history. Acts 2 tells us that the backdrop of Christianity is cross-cultural.
“Jews from all over the world came..”Acts 2:5. See, just like that.
By the time Christianity made its way to the shores of the United States centuries later, it had been stripped of its Middle Eastern backdrop. It had been turned into a political, power hungry machine homogeneous with White European Supremacy. Really, Spain, Rome and England all claimed it and used it to justify colonizing Africa and the Western world, endorse global chattel slavery and displacement of Africas people all over the Western Hemisphere.
And the post-racial American church commissioned it.
“The [American]church gave spiritual sanction [to racism], both overtly by the things that it taught and covertly by the critique that it did not raise,” Bishop Claude Alexander, The Washington Post.
Millions of African-Americans have rejected Christianity because they see it as the religion of the oppressor (again following the logic of the short history paragraph at the beginning). The reaction from the American church has been this tone deaf promotion of colorblind ideology as if color makes everyone racist, or as if color is inherently bad or expendable; an appendage of humanity, so let’s just not see it. It’s the colors fault!
Colorblindness is an invisible fail-safe for lingering White Supremacy.(Yes, please feel free to quote me on this!)
Racism is overt. It says I marginalize, oppress and discriminate against you because I believe the race your color is representative of is inferior to mine. It's easy to see racism coming.
Colorblindness, ole' colorblindess is covert. It says I am indifferent to your skin color or race. The dangerous offshoot of that indifference is racial apathy and dismissal of existing racial inequities. It sweeps the existence of racism under the rug. Colorblindness also creates a subtle narrative that pits my skin color against my God identity from a reverse angle. It works like this, in order to make others feel more comfortable around me or in order to make me feel more accepted by them, I have to explain away, or “see” past my skin color, something that is inherently desirable by Divine design.
The American church has adopted Colorblindness as a remedy for racism, without realizing that we cannot operate in a Post-racial world with pre-racial social contexts. Too late. Entirely too late. Why? 1. Too much hurt and collateral damage has been done to act as if color has not been weaponized, as if it's not a factor in disparities. 2.When we do this we continue to perpetuate an ideal that color is so bad that in order to be equitable we have to just imagine it’s not there. As a result, colored people are then accused of being inequitable when they choose to identify with or set their own backdrop for their own skin color.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”- Psalm 139:14
Race exists now which means racism exists now and we have to work to be anti-racism-ists, not anti-color in order to create a world where color in all of it’s variation is really seen for what it is; God-ordained, God-imagined human race. Not an appendage of it.
One of the distinct beauties of the Christian faith is supposed to be in the unifying collaboration of various representations of humanity without ostracizing people of color for seeing their racial, ethnic heritage and colored bodies as absolute reflections of the image of God
"God, what a variety of things you have made!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures" Psalm 103:24
Instead of colorblindness, the response, by the Evangelical American Church especially, should be a mad dash to disarm any ideology, action or sentiment that sanitizes the racist history of the church in America and the fallout of that history on Black people and Christianity.
There has to be a separation from an image of anesthetized love, a love in theory but not in justice, if not we will continue to reframe the same narratives. If not we will continue to distance people of color, we will continue to subordinate the modifier and permit White supremacist theology.
If we do not expose this toxin still lurking in the Christian community, we are allowing something that has harmful global, generational, relational implications to continue to link arms with something that is supposed to be a life-giving presence in the Earth.
Looking past something God actually stopped, reflected on and called good is very, very, dangerous.
1.Skin color tells us that variety is the spice of humanity.Why would anyone want to make themselves blind to it? What informs that perspective?
2. Babel and the division of nations by God. How did that story, whether you believe it to be myth or not, make a case for the idea that God is not for one-sided tyranny amongst humans?
3. What is your interpretation of Colorblindness?
4. How have Black people been positioned at the receiving end of Colorblindness?