Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's Time We Rethink Our "White Race" Label

Here's help for some self-examination.
"God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable." 
Acts 10:34-35 (ESV)

I'm in the middle of an eye-opening book by Debby Irving on racism, one recommended recently by some folks in our local Faith in Action group.

As something of a history buff, I was especially interested in learning more about our nation's attitudes and actions toward native Americans, African slaves, imported Asian workers, and even Irish and other immigrants who were not considered as "white" as those in the majority.

Among the atrocities highlighted in the book are the ruthless killings of native Americans and the destruction of their land and way of life, all justified by the blatantly racist philosophy of Manifest Destiny. To add insult to injury, there was the practice of having hundreds of native American children forced to be in boarding schools where they were denied contact with their families and punished for speaking to each other in their native languages.

Then there are countless examples in the book of the mistreatment of African Americans, beginning with their enslavement and continuing through the kinds of indignities perpetuated before, during and after the Jim Crow era. I had also not been aware of how African American veterans were systematically denied the same educational and housing opportunities through the post World War II GI Bill as were other servicemen and women.

Being white, Irving points out, has long been associated with being inherently superior, and being "colored" means being somehow less refined and less worthy, somewhat based on the assumption that white is the absence of color, and black is produced by the blending of all colors.

But one obvious point Irving doesn't address is that none of us who are classified as white are even close to actually being colorless. Far from representing the kind of "white" in the title page of her book (above), we  who call ourselves "whites" are not even remotely that, but reflect varied shades of tan, rust, pink and other pale-ish and pastel skin tones. Nor are African-Americans purely "black", but interesting and varied shades of brown, dark tan and charcoal. And as Irving's book points out, there is actually more variability within current racial groups than there are between the so-called "races".

Maybe its way past time for us all to see ourselves as "people of color", and to celebrate that as a wonderfully good and blessed thing. And to forever affirm the fact that "God has made all humanity on earth of one blood" (Acts 17:6).
Norman Rockwell's The Golden Rule
Here's a link to another piece questioning our use of race as a category. Should we instead use labels like "Western European Economically Privileged" or "Non-European Economically Disadvantaged"?
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