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By Rev. Nancy Bacon
Tehachapi Community Congregational Church 

Race: "A Pigment of Our Imaginations"

From the Pastor's Desk

 


I love this quote about race by Ruben G. Rumbaut. Race is an invention we created that has caused many real injustices. Sadly, most of us have been taught and indoctrinated to believe that there are different races of people, sort of like sub-types. In reality, we are all African-American, every single one of us. For some reason, my ancestors moved out of Africa long ago. I don’t know why. Maybe they couldn’t get along with anyone. Anyway, for whatever reason they migrated north and over time their skin color became pasty white. I am truly grateful for that. I and my children have inherited that lighter skin tone and it provides me with more privileges than you or I will ever know. My skin allows me the ability not to worry when my kids walk to the store and pull up their hoods. People think they are cold or maybe geeky. Nobody follows them with a gun, wondering if they are up to something. Statistically, my skin color provides me better health care, better access to education, less likelihood of being arrested or involved with the criminal justice system, and better financial stability.

My ancestors were allowed to homestead and acquire land, based on the color of their skin. While they worked hard, they also benefitted from numerous laws put in place by our government that allowed whites the privilege of citizenship and wealth accumulation making it possible for them to climb into middle class comfort and build net worth. Some amount of this accumulated net worth has been passed along making white families disproportionately more wealthy than black families. With wealth comes a host of other goodies. This being white is such a good thing, even if pasty and not as attractive as many people of color, that I don’t know why everyone doesn’t just choose to become white.

Seriously, that was a joke. Issues of race have caused so much pain that it is hard to joke or even talk about them at all. What makes me really sad, is that I expect people of my generation to be pretty clueless about race. We’ve been misled for a long time. But I am deeply saddened when I talk to my teenage daughter about what they are learning in school about race. She tells me that because the topic is so controversial they don’t discuss it.

I’d like to be part of a group wanting to discuss racial issues and create a modern non-violent “Bacon’s Rebellion” with a better outcome. Perhaps this is already starting in our city streets. If you’re savvy about the invention of race, you know that in 1676 Nathaniel Bacon led an uprising of Virginia settlers against Great Britain’s local governor, William Berkeley. History provides different accounts, but basically, Bacon, far from perfect, was successful at organizing and leading poor whites, poor blacks, slaves and indentured servants to come together, demanding the ability to purchase their own land. Back then, the unfortunate outcome was that the elite British system in power recognized the danger they faced by having the masses join forces. In an attempt to break this powerful rebellion, Britain’s wealthy land owners began writing laws to divide the blacks and whites, giving poor whites more entitlements and decreasing the status of black skinned people. Slavery had never been about “race” in previous history. Race as a concept didn’t exist. It was invented to divide people and to later allow whites seeking democracy and freedom a means to morally justify enslaving other people.

Our contemporary evil of extreme disparity between rich and poor and people of different skin tones remains securely in place as long as people are divided. The extreme wealthy powerful elite rule, and even open-minded pasty folks are a bit fearful about losing all the goodies white privilege provides.

Seems to me there was a man once who came to bring hope to the masses and the oppressed. He was a prophet and a rebel warning the wealthy about their blinders. He was killed by the elite, standing up for those not in power. We celebrate his birth this month in all of our churches. Let us seek his non-white face and join in love and solidarity to learn what it means to be white or shades of color, so that we may follow Jesus’ lead in dismantling injustice and setting people free.

My church will be holding sacred conversations on race weekly, beginning January 11th, from 9:15-10 a.m. All are welcome, no matter your religion or skin color.

Peace Be With You and Merry Christmas, Rev. Nancy Bacon

 
 

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