No longer Black or White?

Perhaps the neither/nor of Galatians 3 isn’t really about moving beyond specific identities.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In a world marred by the violence of a White racial imagination and the aftershocks of a White supremacist presidency, these words from Galatians 3:28 are often evoked in a spirit of hope. Trying to make sense of current conversations on race has sometimes felt disorienting, and I’ve been struck by how a kind of hope or call to move beyond race is evoked in two seemingly disparate camps.

For some, critical race theory and those who teach it are the instigators of division. They suggest that if we rewrite our textbooks and bury talk of race and racism—and all difference, for that matter—we will finally find a sense of peace. Through curricular manipulation and book bans and outright intimidation, they express their hope that the United States might return to something of what it was. What is rarely spoken in this yearning is the implicit hope for a time when Whiteness was the norm, when a seeming homogeneity offered a veneer of peace and stability and cohesion.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who have no desire to return to yesterday and who are clear on the violence of racism and White supremacy. Some ask, however, if the category of race is helpful anymore. Does it reinscribe patterns of racial violence that so often render the question of race into categories of White and Black and leave countless other experiences outside? Do the mechanisms that seek racial justice and use race as an operative principle actually create equity? Perhaps it is more an issue of class and economics.