July 1st, 2021
On my recent post about white fragility, someone commented “Your not white.” I think that is a terrific introduction to this essay about race itself.
The commentator wasn’t wrong, necessarily: race is all made up. In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ brilliant Between The World and Me (if you haven’t read it, do; there isn’t a wasted word and it will teach you more in an afternoon than you could learn in a lifetime), he says himself that race does not exist.
But if we’re to believe that words and religions and even our own names are real, then you also have to acknowledge that race is real, too.
Here’s what went down, as simply as I can explain: certain humans said, “We need power. In order to get power, we need to be able to put people in boxes, and then we can put those boxes on levels and that will decide who has power and who does not.”
It didn’t take them long to look around and find the easiest way to identify a person, and by sight alone.
Thus, race was born.
Sure, there are a lot of other factors and this only got more complicated over time, but this is really how it started.
Words are not real. You know that, right? That we just made them up? I strongly believed this when I was younger, and would say any- and everything just to shock people, because it wasn’t real, not really.
Now I believe that even though words aren’t real, intent is. And I am much more careful with my words as a result.
There are people who use words that are offensive or hurtful to many because “the word doesn’t mean that to ME.” How narcissistic. They decide that because they — one person — don’t have a problem with (or a different definition of) a word that hurts millions of others that it is not unkind to use. Note that I didn’t say “wrong.”
Same for religion (and don’t come here saying religion isn’t made up by man, unless you want me to introduce you to the over 4,000 other religions who think you’re wrong and know they’re right).
So, I’m not white. In the same way that the words I’m writing here mean nothing and God isn’t real.
Or… we accept that it’s all real. Words and names and God and, unfortunately, race, which has affected the lives of billions of people during the thousands of years humans have existed on this planet which is billions of years old. For countless, race has defined their entire life’s experience, and for me to ignore that may or may not be wrong, but it is, in my opinion, ignorant and unkind.
So, I’m not white. Or I am.
You can decide.