I’m not racist.”
These words are often uttered without careful reflection and introspection into the depths of the human psyche that are affected by the racialization of our global citizenry. Race is a cultural construction with real and significant implications for all of us. The definition of who is white, for instance, has changed with the definition of who has near unlimited access to the power structures of society. Whiteness is synonymous with power and subjugation. Other races pale in comparison to the power of whiteness and its ability to advance at the expense of these other races.
To say “I’m not racist” is to say that one has discovered every inch of their psyche and found it pristine and untainted by the ills of this racialization. This is not theoretically impossible, but its probability is near zero given that each of us is born into a racialized world where white stereotypes are good and black ones are bad.
“You are whitewashed.”
I’ve seen it a thousand times. A person of color is wearing Birkenstocks and speaks in well-crafted, stereotypically white slang. Then the accusations start pouring in: whitewashed, sell-out, indoctrinated, etc. Two things could be at play here: 1) our person in question is trying actively to conform to an increasingly white society, or 2) they think Birkenstocks are cool and talk like their white friends because they can fit in better that way because of a reduction of ethnic space due to the constriction of white space. Either way, the person in question has begun to lose their cultural and racial identity.
“So what?” you might ask.
What difference does it make if someone decides to forfeit their racial identity for a broader, more normative one found in whiteness? Answer: because whiteness is destructive and corrosive to the cultural differences that make us all unique. To be white in the true sense of the word, in the sense that contains the history of white supremacy and implies ethnic nihilism, is to destroy cultural markers and opt for a unity of a higher, more normative order. To be white in this sense of the word is to be a culture-destroyer, not a culture-maker.
“What’s God got to do with it?”
So what role does Christian unity have in the battle of the races? The elimination of the universal norm for the sake of the particular. The imago dei (Image of God)is a very particular notion, not an abstract, universal one. The image of God is a particular man in Jesus Christ with a particular race and skin tone. These things are not accidental to the image of God, but are essential. Contrary to popular eschatology, we will not all be in some ethereal Heaven without bodies; we will be the same race that we are today. Race persists in the resurrection since it is a part of who we are today, in this age. In the age to come, the imago dei will be expressed by the diversity of races, not clouded by it.
I recall a conversation I had with a fellow white friend of mine. He insisted that race was merely accidental to someone’s identity. We argued for hours on this, but we did not move an inch for one reason: his God was God en abstracto, while mine was always particular in Jesus Christ.
Our takeaway is this: to be in love with Jesus is to be in love with a middle-eastern refugee who called for non-violent resistance to the tyrannical government of the time. He was Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Emmett Till. There is no getting around it. Jesus is black. He is Latin. He is every race but white.