Chapter 6 – Embracing Our True Selves
Every day we all – consciously or unconsciously – receive false messages that attempt to define us and tell us who we are. As these messages penetrate our heart, we develop a false self-identity that influences how we view others and ourselves. (74)
God wants to replace those false words with the truth about who we are. We are made in the image of God, and the words we speak have the power to produce life or death in the lives of one another. (74)
. . . to begin the process of embracing our true selves, we must first recognize, renounce and repent of the false identities that have been used to define us. (77)
The Self-Hatred Identity: you often wish that you belonged to some other ethnicity or race; which is a fundamental rejection of the person God made you to be. This is a sin that must be recognized and confessed. (77)
The Rage-Filled Identity: you experience extreme anger in response to little things done by people of other ethnicities; [we] become filled with rage and hatred toward the person or group who has caused us such suffering. Tragically, we always become what we hate. Hatred merely fuels a never-ending cycle of violence and revenge. (78) Vengeance belongs to God alone. . . It is not that we let people off the hook, excusing their sins and evil toward others. But we leave balancing the scales to God, and we learn, for our own sake and the sake of the world, even to love our enemy. (79)
The Victim Identity: . . . victims are not responsible for themselves and their plight. They must always look to others to fix the situation. They are dependent on the actions and choices of others for making their life better. (81) We start by confessing that we have seen ourselves as victims without any power to change our situation. We continue by agreeing that we have embraced the lie of the enemy of our soul – the lie that other groups have dominance or superiority over our racial or ethnic group. It is not true that a person or group cannot get ahead or succeed because a certain group of people tends to see them as inferior. (82)
The Model Minority Identity: you feel shame and great awkwardness when you are around relatives and other people of your cultural background who are acting especially ‘ethnic’ and traditional. (82) You may see it as your responsibility to be a positive role model for your entire racial or ethnic group or to dispel negative stereotypes about your people by performing at high levels. This shame-based behavior must be faced and your background must be embraced if you are to make peace with yourself as a bicultural person. Although you may appear quite competent, the false identity of the model minority is another way for people of color to bend toward European Americans, another way to internalize racism. (83)
The Hip White Person Identity: In this day of political correctness and increased social tolerance, there are European Americans who base their identity on being the white person who gets it. (83) It is the attempt of European American people to become or be identified as ‘black’ or ‘Hispanic,’ usually out of shame or guilt about their own culture. (84) For them whiteness has become a symbol only of injustice, undeserved privilege and the evil of racism. (84) It is important that white Americans identify with and repent of the sinful, fallen aspects of their culture. However, it is equally important to own and celebrate the positive elements of this ethnic heritage.(85)
The White Superiority Identity: some obvious examples include the Holocaust, Anti-Semitism, and Native American genocide; . . . it is important to recognize that some very subtle forms of the white supremacist false identity infect all European Americans. . . It means that when they see a person of color, they tend to make judgments without knowing anything about that person. (86)
The question is often asked whether people of color can be racists. We contend that ethnocentrism –the belief that one’s ethnic group is central and superior – has characterized many ethnic groups throughout history, and therefore anyone can be ethnocentric. However, racism – the belief that my race is inherently superior and destined to dominate – is a peculiarly European and European American construct . . . Racial categorizing was not common among the cultures of the world until European scientists and leaders made it central. (86)
The Color- Blind Identity: people who live in this identity may say, ‘I don’t see a person’s skin color. I don’t think it matters at all’ . . . Although skin color does not matter genetically, it has mattered a great deal historically. Ignoring it or waving away historical realities by making facile comments about prejudice and racism is not a path toward genuine racial and ethnic reconciliation. (88)
Renouncing and Repenting of False Identities: The first and foremost important step in reclaiming our true self is to . . . look to Christ for our identity. (91)
We ask God to strengthen our weak will so that we can choose obedience again – obedience to celebrate and embrace the good in our ethnic identity and heritage. (92)
Whew! That’s a lot to absorb! So, what’s my false identity? It’s probably no surprise, considering I am Euro-American, that I struggle with White Superiority Identity and sometimes, Hip White Person Identity.
Having been raised in an area with very, very few people that were not Euro-American, my first-hand experience with other ethnic groups was quite limited. I believe that this is where a part of my White Superiority Identity developed. Looking back, I know that sometimes, I was exposed to comments, assumptions, and opinions that were racist, and I didn’t have any personal experience to dispel those racist ideas. I am sure that this only scratches the surface of why my identity is as such.
After adopting two African children, I have experienced moments of temptation to take on the Hip White Person Identity. After all, if I am white and have black children, how can I be racist? I “get it.” Yeah, right. The truth is that I will never “get it.” I will never know what it is to live without the privileges that my “whiteness” provides for me.
Which false identity have you given yourself?
McNeil, Brenda Salter, and Rick Richardson. The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.