Matthew 1.18-25 shares with its readers the birth narrative of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In these few verses, one can find conflict, suspense, romance, and even a divine visitation. What began as a cause for concern became a source of celebration. The birth of Jesus Christ, his entry into the world remains the most celebrated of any historical figure or present celebrity. And as we rejoice over this gift to the world, I would ask that we consider the impact of the arrival of race in our lives.
Despite the social shroud of mystery that surrounds race, our inability to grasp the totality of its meaning and to satisfactorily explain its presence in the world, race was not a miraculous conception but a human invention. The birth of race in American society did not satisfy a prophetic declaration or fulfill the divine will of God for humanity. It was not begotten or the result of God’s love for the world. Many have attempted to trace its lineage, comparatively analyzing cultures as it relates to the size and shape of the cranium, the weight of the brain, one’s facial angle, the structure of hair, social customs, and even the possession of body lice but none have proven to be innate cues to race or a determinant of racial character. Unlike Jesus, race cannot be traced back to tribes or societies but the trail of its origin leads back to our tongues. Its lineage is found in our language, the words that we have used over time to describe persons who challenge our concept of the image of God in humanity. We are its parents, a polygamous origin.
Race is with us but it is not for us. Its entry into the world was neither a sign nor a wonder. Consequently, it is not a cause for understanding and it should not be visited with amazement. Race did not enter the world as a gift, evident in the motivation of the benefactor.
Rev. Starlette McNeill