One day seeing inter-racial couples won’t be a big deal. But considering the racial ruckus that a Cheerios commercial featuring an mixed family caused, we aren’t there yet. So, it’s timely that Jack McCain, Sen. John McClain’s son, and his new wife, Renee Swift, became the nation’s most recent high-profile inter-racial married couple.
According to a People Magazine article, the couple recently wed in San Francisco. They are both in the military and met on a base in Guam.
The question about Jack and Renee’s inter-racial marriage is, “Should we even mention race?” If we’re really okay with people of different races and ethnicities marrying each other should we point it out? Is it racist or ethno-centric to notice when a couple (even a fictional one in a cereal commercial) is mixed?
It could be, but not necessarily.
If You Stop Talking about Race All the Time, It Won’t Be Such a Big Deal
You could make a case for not mentioning race by saying we need to be moving towards a color-blind society. Sometimes “color-blind” means misguidedly ignoring race and ethnicity as if it doesn’t matter. In this instance I mean “color-blind” as refusing to make race or ethnicity an issue when it shouldn’t be one.
Proponents of this brand of color-blindness see pointing out the inter-racialness of the McCain couple as perpetuating the problem of race. If we’d just stop pointing it out at every turn, it would become normal sooner. We’d get to the stage where we race isn’t the first thing we notice if we’d stop making a big deal of it every time we see it.
This option is attractive. You’re making an intentional effort to normalize racial and ethnic diversity when you choose not to make it more conspicuous by starting a conversation about it. I’d like our nation to see mixed-race couples simply as couples, too. But I don’t think we’re there yet.
Why We Can Still Mention Race
I still point out race–whether in an inter-racial marriage, a church congregation or elsewhere–for at least three reasons.
First, unity should not mean uniformity. An inter-racial husband and wife are certainly united, but that doesn’t mean they lose all their other identity markers. True unity means preserving the best of each person’s attributes and identity while not letting any of those aspects become barriers to loving cooperation.
Second, we’re still not “over” race in this country. We live in a nation whose history has been significantly determined by “the race question.” It’s premature to think we are beyond this question and treat it as irrelevant. Race is still a meaningful topic of conversation. We must continue to discuss how people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds can experience solidarity and not simply co-exist in the same geographic locale.
Third, diversity of all kinds reflects the beauty of our Creator. No matter how much racial and ethnic progress this country makes, our distinctives will always be worth mentioning because God created those differences. The Bible repeatedly mentions the global reach of the Gospel. God could have withheld his electing grace from humankind altogether. He could have contained His grace solely in the nation of Israel. Instead He extends His gracious offer of eternal life to all who believe from every nation and people group.
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Ps. 22:27).
Identity, Not Idolatry
While elevating race, gender, culture, or any other aspect of identity to a pre-eminent position is a danger, it’s not an inevitable one. Christians, whose identity is rooted solely in Christ, should be able to recognize other important aspects of identity without falling into idolatry.
In fact, the Gospel frees us not only to notice, but to celebrate our differences. When we know that our fundamental existence is founded on our status as God’s children, we need not unduly exalt or denigrate the way God made us or others.Christians, of all people, should feel the liberty to mention race and ethnicity without attaching too much or too little value to it.
Talking about race can also be an opportunity for believers to redeem the conversation. We can point out racism in our own hearts as well as in others with grace and sensitivity because we know we are all sinners forgiven in Christ. And we can display the magnificent variety of God’s creation in our marriages and in our churches because we know that the Gospel has broken down all barriers of fellowship in the Savior.
Yet this freedom belongs only to those who belong to Christ. Even though we can talk about the fact that Jack and Renee are an inter-racial couple. But what matters much more, eternally more, is whether they are a Christian couple.