Identity – Who Dat?
Who are you? When I first began writing this blog, someone asked me that very question. Then I was asked to complete a profile and again, that question came up. What is your identity? More importantly, what do you want people to remember about you?
We’ve discussed in past blog posts about “Who dat?” I know many New Orleans Saints NFL team fans want to believe they invented this phrase but, alas, history proves it predates the National Football League. It was first sung as a line in a song in an operetta written by Dunbar and Will Marion Cook entitled “Clorinda: the Origin of the Cakewalk”. It was presented as part of the 1898 “summer Nights” show produced by E. E. Rice.
US service men picked up the catchy phrase and it was often heard over plane radios as servicemen radioed each other. One of the lines of the original song asks a question we might all ask ourselves: “Who dat inside who’s dat outside; who’s dat inside who dat well outside?”
Several years ago the Anglican Communion voted to sanction the Episcopal Church of America. The issue was the Episcopal Church’s interpretation of the Bible which, in the Episcopal Church’s view, states that the creator known as God loves all equally and so should man. In his response to this action, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, a man quoted in this blog from time to time, asked: “By what identity do we want to be known?” In other words, when it comes to believing and sharing God’s love, do we want to be picky and choose only certain ones?
George Orwell once wrote “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” As a child, I was often mistaken by some as being of a different race. It was a time of segregation and so, when in the company of my red-haired, freckle-faced mother, I had no difficulty in using the same restroom and water fountain as she did. However, when alone or with a group of children, I would sometimes be directed to the facilities marked “colored”. I felt no shame because I was curious.
We all wonder what is on the other side of a closed door. The enticement of the unknown affects us all. To my surprise and, yes I admit it, to my disappointment, the other side of the door looked just the same as the room marked “white”. The water fountain used the same intake pipes to bring water to the spigot and the drains went into the same outtake pipes. The only differences were the markings, the identifying signs designed to separate and discourage acceptance.
Who do you want to be? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wanted to be known as a man. He wanted his children to be just children, not identified by color but by their being. They had names, not shame. They were God’s own. Maybe not in the eyes of the Anglican Communion way back when but now…Who dat?
Who are you? What do you believe? What is evidenced by how you live? I remained me whether I used the “white” restroom or the “black” restroom. I did not change because of another’s perception. And whenever someone asks me who I am, my first thought is “a child of God.” Of course, just saying it doesn’t make it so. I have to live it. That is what gives me my identity. Not what someone else thinks or sanctions but my own actions. My identity is what I do, what I say, how I evidence my faith in my life.
We humans are a curious lot. I am certain someone famous has said that but tonight it is my own quote. In an effort to avoid schism within the Anglican Communion, the Communion created a schism with itself and the Episcopal Church. The issue is about who qualifies as a child of God and is thereby entitled to respect, love, and forgiveness…all those things we humans expect. It should be noted that the very things that created such schism would later be adopted and today there is little difference to note.
It makes me wonder if the Anglican Communion thinks we have invented a new breed of mammal – the homosexual Christian. It really is not about who the outcasts are. It is completely about who we become with such decision. What identity do we then take on when we fail to recognize these as children of God, or the Creator, or Allah, or the Supreme Being, or any of the other one hundred common names for the Creator Spirit?
There is a national holiday declared as Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the U.S.A. He had a dream that one day all people and children would be seen as just that – people and children. “Who dat inside who’s dat outside; who’s dat inside who dat well outside?” We cannot be well in our identity if we fail to see the inner soul and respond to the being within. Recently those who work in the nation’s capital seem to have forgotten the purpose behind this holiday. Instead they use their positions as an excuse to engage in name calling and acceptance of those who commit illegal acts.
I am proud to be a member of a group of people who have chosen their identity to be open to envelope in God’s love all the souls of the earth, regardless of color, creed, race, or status. My identity is not that of God nor am I any better than another. Who dat? It’s me, a child of God, a child who still hears the echoes of Dr. King’s words.
I, too, have a dream, a dream of a world in which respect is given to all living things. My identity is based upon equality and the hope that we will someday truly realize equality for all. When it comes to acceptance, I don’t think anyone should be left outside. Who are you?