Most days lately, you can find me reading books on racial justice as I sit in an old, plastic, green outdoors chair on my front porch, snug next to the porch rail. My daily reading-potentials (other books that I want to read, but likely won’t) rest on the rail along with a cup of black, dark-roasted coffee. You can find me there even when it’s 91 degrees out. I prefer warmth. But if the mosquitoes are out, likely you won’t find me there. The mosquitoes get on my nerves, and are one of the things that can drive me indoors.
Sometimes my kids drive me indoors, too. Like, if they come out on the front porch five times because they are bored, I usually run away indoors. Or, if they are fighting each other too much and it sounds like it’s about to get bloody and I need to intervene, then I go indoors. I also go indoors for them when I realize it’s about time to eat again and they need me to make something for them. Other than that, they’re pretty self-sufficient these days, and my husband has them on a summer learning schedule that they know they must follow and complete each day.
Anyhow, I’ve spent time out on my front porch reading White Awake by Daniel Hill over the past couple of days. (Sometimes I read it aloud to myself, pacing back and forth on my driveway – keeps me awake and focused.) I am reading it, and two other books, as part of the requirements for the OneRace Leadership Cohort.
The particular concept from the book that’s spinning my brain right now is the narrative of racial difference versus “the narrative of the kingdom of God” which “is informed by the imago Dei – that is, every human is created in the image of God” (Hill, 64). It may seem pretty obvious and basic like, “Of course everyone is created in the image of God, I believe that” and it may seem like no further exploration or explanation is needed. But, I have found it necessary to have this dichotomy expanded on.
First, the deeper explanation is making me awake to the narrative of racial difference that subconsciously infects our every moment. And I believe the narrative of racial difference doesn’t just affect white people, but it affects everyone, as there is colorism/hair-ism/eye-ism in the BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) community as well, that has been subconsciously ingrained into minds by white supremacy (go look up the academic definition of that “white supremacy”, if it’s cringe-y to you).
The narrative of racial difference is the narrative that runs throughout our systems and subconscious and it says… THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE PEOPLE AND EVERYONE ELSE, AND WHITENESS IS SUPERIOR. And it says that everyone who is not white is less than – or inferior – in one way or another – in intelligence, physique, hair texture, morality, spirituality, sexuality, etc.
Understanding in fullness the narrative of racial difference is important in being able to catch and correct one’s own mind, words, attitudes, and emotions in regards to non-whiteness. It’s also important in helping us to catch it and correct it in other people and in systems around us. And if you are a parent or teacher, it’s also important so you can catch it in and correct your children and students.
As I’ve been reading about this concept in White Awake, I periodically find myself daydreaming about things I’ve heard my children say in casual conversation around the house, and I imagine how from now on I will be paying careful attention so that I can correct them and talk with them about this narrative. Of course, I also need to pay attention to myself, and as I sit here writing this, I am thinking about the settings in which I would especially need to watch myself. For one, I need to watch myself in my church (which is largely populated with African people) and also in my job as a public school teacher (in which the school I work in is largely populated with Latinx students).
Catching oneself and others is an important step, but then there’s the correction part, which is where the other side of the dichotomy comes in, namely, being able to project the narrative of the imago Dei – that is “in the image of God”.
The narrative of the imago Dei is a deep concept, and it begins at creation in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (KJV). And the Genesis creation account also says that God created mankind to dominate over animals and plants. But, it doesn’t ever say anything about mankind dominating over other human beings. The Genesis creation account has nothing in it about hierarchies of human beings. All humans, according to the Bible, are created in the image of God.
The Bible DOES show that, after sin entered into the world, people began to dominate over each other. But, that does not make it right – and again, God never created some people to be more superior to others, and others to be inferior. All humans are created in the image of God… there is absolutely no such thing as racial difference. Yes, people have different cultures, hair types, eye shapes, skin colors and all that, but even scientifically in genetics it has been proven that there is a 0.1% variation between all “races”. (http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/science-genetics-reshaping-race-debate-21st-century/)
Alongside of the message that “there are no racial differences in human beings”, is that human beings are made in the image of God. Hill explains it a bit in White Awake and points to some other verses in the Bible (and other books) to explain all that. But essentially it is a VERY sacred (I think that’s the right word to use here) truth. And, understanding and projecting this kingdom truth, with all of its depth, onto other people, through our attitudes, thoughts, words, actions and etc., is how we correct the narrative of racial difference.
At this point I don’t know, practically, what that looks like. But, I am imagining, for one, a repeated rehearsal in my mind of just looking at people and thinking to myself… “You are divine!” Maybe that’s a step in the process? I don’t really know. I haven’t finished the book yet. Hopefully I’ll get more practical ideas as I read.
In the meantime, it may look like at this point that I’m not doing anything about racial justice, or that I am tapering off, but let me just say… that you can’t see the work that’s going on inside my soul. I am indeed being reborn again. And that IS doing something. Thank God.