It’s Black History month, which makes me happy because we get to celebrate beautiful, creative, brave people. And it makes me feel a little sad because for a long time, the dominant culture in America oppressed, abused, overlooked and discriminated against those same people.
I’m hopeful that we continue to repair relationships and restore communication with the races and cultures we’ve mistreated in the past, to create a society where we celebrate diversity rather than discriminating against it.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think we can have diversity in a vacuum. We can’t just decide to embrace different skin colors, and then reject other areas in which human beings are created differently.
We can’t diversify churches along racial lines without celebrating and embracing the diversity that comes from different ages and genders as well. We can’t give racial minorities a voice while simultaneously silencing women, or the elderly, or others who are given less-than-equal value in many faith communities.
We can’t diversify standards of beauty by appreciating different skin tones without also celebrating the diversity of shapes. We can’t say black and white are beautiful without also saying that short and muscular, tall and lanky, and round and curvy are beautiful as well. We can’t say that long hair is more beautiful than short, or that 5” stiletto heels are inherently sexier than ballet flats.
We can’t stop making value judgments about color without also asserting that brown hair is just as beautiful as blonde. Or that gray hair is just as pretty as black.
In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve eat fruit from the forbidden tree, they suddenly realize they are naked, and they run and hide because they’re now ashamed of their bodies’ natural beauty. When God goes after them, he says, “Who told you you were naked?” In other words, why would they be ashamed of their bodies if God didn’t tell them to be? Why would they hide themselves when God never asked them to?
The question God asked Adam and Eve is the question we have to continue to ask today.
Who told you… that black wasn’t as valuable as white?
Who told you… that short wasn’t as admirable as tall?
Who told you… that hair color determined your worth?
Who told you… that wrinkles were something to be ashamed of — something you had to hide by having surgery or injecting your face with toxins?
Who told you… that the country you live in was any more important than any other?
Who told you… that a penis gave you more authority than a vagina?
And Who told you… that you could embrace one difference without embracing them all?
Because if it wasn’t God who told you, then please for the love of everything, just let it go.