We should identify ourselves, not by race, but by source

Jeff Schooley

With Black History Month upon us, I find myself faced with a problem in the current state of race in our culture. The term “African-American” no longer means a person of a certain geographical origin, but now is an entire identity.

Previously the term existed as an adjective, but now it exists as a noun. The result is an alienation of those who cannot claim the term as a title from those who can.

“African-American” needs to be seen as an identifier, not an identity, as a characteristic, not a character. If this does not happen, conflict is bound to arise for it separates and excludes, going against our cultural desires of desegregation and inclusion.

Thus, as we engage in Black History Month, we face an interesting problem: How do we live up to Dr. King’s “dream” to have his four children live in a nation “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” while simultaneously shaping people’s identity by everything but their character? The answer is disheartening; it is not possible.

If we really want to see people as they truly are, we must release our ideas about the celebration of diversity and begin our search anew for a way to see one another and a way that will still lead to equality. If we really want equality, we should not hamper ourselves with trying to assign everyone an identity and then give each assigned identity group its month, TV station and parade.

No, equality must come from something deeper than our assigned identities; it must come from the Source.

The Source is, in some form or another, our shared point of origin. Regardless of how conflicting different world-views are, most, if not all of them, assume the same point of origin for all humanity (i.e. God or Big Bang), meaning that within either view, it is believed that all people come from that origin.

When humanity has a similar point of origin, it is out of it that we desire equality because it, logically, asks: How can two things from the exact same Source be all that different in what they deserve (i.e. rights)?

Such a “Source view” throws away assigned identity and teaches comfort in our natural identity — the one given to us by the Source.

And in my own personal experience, I’ve come to know that Source as the one known in the Judeo-Christian writings — the Bible. The Source, in this story, calls us all image bearers of It and thus each person seen is a piece of God seen.

How pragmatic for the basis of equality! It even goes beyond Dr. King’s dream of “content of character” to the “essence of identity.”

“I have a dream that one day we shall rise up out of this torrid sea of false identity and sit upon the beautiful shores of our identity as image-bearers of God. At that time we will join hands — hand of image-bearer in hand of image-bearer — and declare ourselves ‘Free at last! Free at last! Free at last …’”

Jeff Schooley is a graduate student in English and an editorial board writer for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].