Race

Family of Alonzo Edmiston

“I would like to tell you that such a day approaches when the people who believe themselves to be white renounce this demon religion and begin to think of themselves as human.”  from Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Our Presbytery offered a day-long anti-racism event led by Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (Chicago ROAR) and over 100 people attended.  On a Saturday.  Of a three-day weekend.  From 9-4 (as in all day.)  And it was a sunny day.

Our nation is a hot mess in terms of violence and racial prejudice.  But the color of one’s skin is about as indicative of one’s propensity for personal success or  violence as one’s height, eye color, or shoe size.  And yet we consider skin color to determine one’s intelligence, personality traits, and proclivities.

We know that race is a social construct, right?  It was invented by Europeans to designate value and status.  We know that – right?

What was considered “white” in the United States varied from state to state after the U.S. Civil War.  The children of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings were slaves and yet – according to Virginia law – they were “white” by virtue of their European blood.  Native Americans were “white” in Oklahoma during Jim Crow years.  Arabs were officially ruled to be “white” in 1944.  At certain points in history, people from Ireland, Italy, and Israel were not considered “white” until they were. Rashida Jones and Lena Horne are considered “black” although their skin color is lighter than my (“white”) father’s.

And so on this day when we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, let us also remember that:

  • race ≠ skin color
  • race ≠genes or blood
  • race ≠ language
  • race ≠ ethnicity
  • race ≠ religion

Race is a social construct invented to sort people.  And sorting people based on the color of their skin makes no sense.  And so, while we move further into the 21st Century, let’s educate ourselves on what it means to be human beings created in the image of God.  It’s not about melanin.

Image of Alonzo Edmiston and family whom I would be honored to consider my kin although I’m not sure we are actually related by either marriage or blood.  “Alonzo Edmiston, a missionary to the American Presbyterian Congo Mission in the early twentieth century  . . . married fellow missionary Althea Brown on July 8, 1905, and together they had two sons. Sherman Lucius was born on May 26, 1906, and given the native name of Kuete, after the Bakuba King. Alonzo Leaucourt was born on May 27, 1913, and given the native name of Bope.”  You can read more about Althea Edmiston here.

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