I remember how troubling my senior year of High School ended because of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The shooting did not immediately register as a catalyst for the discussion about ‘typical killings of our brown boys;’ it felt untypical, unfamiliar, re-registering as inhumane simply because it was a cold-blood-shooting, and it was not until the trial neared when my stomach turned and mind blew over the identities of the shooter and the one who was shot. This case made race obvious again, in the sense that we do not want to remember, but we must never forget. With that said, I will never forget the History classes in High School where I was 1 of few black teens in my class when news like the Trayvon Martin shooting broke, and this case made racism obvious again, in the sense that it seemed as if I was the only one wanting to remember and never wanting to forget. Lessons on ‘race in America’ outside of the classroom made that experience reinvent The Academy for me, how important conversations about racism are in academic settings where race physically takes a backseat to humanity because hard work is the name of the game for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. That experience of diversity reinvented the dialogue on race for me most importantly, how connected we are in spite of the division that superiority complexes have injected into our imaginations through random acts of violence.
A reality is that race is a product of America’s imagination, which became a concept just before the 19th century, and in result, America has garnered the nickname “melting pot” trying to turn into a mosaic work of art; in result, non-white Americans are not born into America with the impression of normalcy that white Americans have archetyped, and this has made us deliver a hyphenated version of our identity in America; in result, that hyphen is an agreement with America that we will compromise our affiliation with ‘being black’ in order to ‘be American,’ without fulfilling meanings of either in our everyday lives; in result, ‘being black’ is a threat to America’s imagination of African-Americans because we have questioned our reality just to answer to our own imagination. Through this summary of results, we have learned that what we imagine can become reality, and as quick as black identity can be killed in America’s imagination, an imagination for a reality that identifies us beyond racialized acts and language can live. For the concept of humanity has existed long before the concept of race, which belongs to the creator of a new world over elected officials of a state.
Our identities—as we transition academia into enhanced professional lives—will inevitably change because our experiences have expanded, and what a tragedy it is to not follow-through on self-discovery with a change in thought. It is inevitable that we negotiate a racial identity because our physical differences enable a space for that dialogue, but if color starts our conversation about race, then character must finish our conversation about racism. Perhaps, the conversation we need is not only about ‘race in America,’ but unfolding race in the American, so the conversation I have with my baby relatives is not why one is peach-colored and the other is caramel-colored, but how that will not determine why one can drive a Buick and one can drive a Bentley, for how we talk about race drives how we talk about class, gender, and religion beyond the academy. As I ode to academic scholars, community leaders, and personal peers, I think of our children because that is who they thought of and who we must continue thinking of when we are not just allowing the world to shape our identity, but shaping the world with our identities.
I remember wondering why it takes random acts of violence to spark purposeful acts of non-violence just last month when Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, and I do not want to forget discussing race on a random Saturday afternoon while eating ice cream with my peach and brown family.
And I encourage you, Brothers and Sisters, to remember this:
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” – Romans 12:5