Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Identifying' as Human...and then some...

Rachel Dolezal has done us all a big favor by raising to a new level the notion of personal identity. She famously identifies as black although her skin pigment  and parents indicate otherwise.

In a lot of ways we should all identify as black. Black Africa is the "home" of our ancient ancestors. And they were black.

Time and migration modified human pigmentation into the rich variety we have today.

The question of racial identity has another side. I found out something about mine in Africa as well.

As a young man, I was in a Peace Corps teacher in Kenya for three years. All of my students were black, but they didn't identify as black at all. They identified as being a member of a particular tribe. Each had its own language, and, yes, racial characteristics. Kenya has some 90 tribal. Most of my students were Luos.

As time went by in my Peace Corps tour, I found that at the end of the teaching day something strange happened when I'd look in the mirror. I was surprised that the face peering back at me was white, not black. It seemed  that my identity was being absorbed and my "whiteness" was disappearing, at least in my sense of self.

I frankly found the change liberating.

Dolezal may have had a similar experience and had a similar liberating reaction.

The story of her self-proclaimed identity has put me into T-shirt slogan mode. I want to get a few score shirts that read: "I identify has HUMAN!"

The subtitle might be: "...for better or worse. It's up to me."

But that slogan doesn't really describe me either.  In my eighth decade of life as we know it I'm increasingly identifying with spirit, the ephemeral, the soul, the One.

And "identify" falls short of the mark too although changing the word removes us from Rachel's inspiring, provocative proclamation.

My operative verb is "am." "I am Spirit." Subtitle: "...the same one as you."

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