How do you identify racially/ethnically?
- Black/African American/Afro-Caribbean
- Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander
- Native American/Alaskan Native
- Arab/Middle Eastern
- Other (please specify)________
We do a lot of surveys at the national level of the United Church of Christ to help gain information about and assess who we are and how we want to be church together. In most of our surveys, we ask people completing to give us information about who they are and what their racial and/or ethnic origin is. We seek to gather information not only about who we are, but about who is taking our surveys. It’s a vital part of data collection, and as the Center for Research and Data Director Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi says, sharing this information is one of the ways in which we live out our covenantal relationship in the United Church of Christ in transparency and honesty.
So a funny thing happens when I get to see the back end of all these surveys. Going into this question, we then start to get answers like, “human” or “race is made up” or even “does not matter.” People have a lot to say about the audacity to ask about their race. And nearly universally, these people are white.
Because refusing to talk about race is a function of white supremacy.
Choosing to believe that race doesn’t impact our society means that we are ignoring the very real impact that it has on bodies of color and people who are darker in melanin. Refusing to talk about whiteness, or being white, or owning the fact that I AM white means that we can neatly keep this under wraps and choose not to see the impact that the social construction of race has, for example, on employment rates within the United Church of Christ.
Collecting information about race and ethnic origin enables the United Church of Christ to be honest about who we are, who our members are, and who we call into leadership. It allows us to look at the data of who we are in the current moment and the trends over the course of time. Regardless of whether we want to engage the whiteness within our denomination, there is no doubt that we are more reflective of the kindom of God when we have more difference among us in any capacity of being. Certainly, in 2017, and in America, being attentive to racial and ethnic diversity is absolutely essential to our continued faithfulness as stewards of the kindom of God, today.
So I’d rather talk about race. And ask about race. And know that when I answer that question as “White/Euro-American,” I am naming my own racialization as part of the construct— and part of the construct that leaves people like me the privilege to choose to talk about it.
Rev. Chris Davies is the curator of Queer Clergy Trading Cards and serves the United Church of Christ as the Coordinator for Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement. Her academic work is in queer proclamation.