The new title, "What Are You?", is the question that multiracial/ethnic people and people who are classified as "Others" get asked -- and, quite honestly -- ask themselves. This question has variations, such as "Where are you from, no before that, where are you really from?" and, for me specifically, "What tribe are you?" and my sisters, "¿De donde es usted?"
Which is not to say it's bad to ask these questions. It's all about context. If it's one of the first questions out of your mouth when you meet someone, you need to ask yourself why you're asking that question. Why do you need to know? Trust me, if you hang out with that person long enough, you'll find out. It will come up. If you're friends and you pay attention, you'll find out. Finding out about the souls of people around you are gems that need to be unearthed with care, not strip-mined for speed and efficiency. It's about them, not you.
Now, if you're at, say, diversity training or something and one of the exercises are about deconstructing your heritage, then it might be OK to ask. Context. Good rule of middle-finger: Golden Rule. How'd you like it if you got this question? Wouldn't you wonder why it mattered?
This question, and questions like these, are attempts to put people in a box so we know how to react to them. It's why people round these parts ask, "What church do you go to?" Because we need to know if they go to our kind of church or one of the other churches.
Personally, I really think this is a question that we all could stand to ask ourselves, about almost anything. What are you? What are you really? And how do you know you are what you are? How could you back that up? What makes you sure?
For example, the "What Are You, religion edition": I want to say that I'm a christian, but I don't really believe in that whole Christ divinity thing. So am I a christian? But I like Jesus, or Yeshua, as my pastor keeps calling him, and I like his teachings. And I'm a big fan of Christmas and Easter, culturally speaking. But I really hate capitalizing third-person personal pronouns. So am I a christian? Well ... Yes. Because that's how I identify. Today.
But I gotta keep wrestling with it. It changes. And how elastic in my definition can I get before I ditch the identity completely? And is it my definition, or someone else's?
This is one reason why I'm in seminary.
The ID change is me being cheeky. We're finishing up Revelation in Bible class at church, and I'm reading Catherine Keller's God and Power: Counter-Apocalyptic Journeys, and she was talking about the mother-maiden-crone imagery in Revelation, and called the whore of Babylon Babs. Now, my sister used to call me Babs, because it's a diminutive for my real name, and I haaaaaated it because it sounded like a nickname of an elderly rich woman who wore pearls and drank hot tea out of silver service sets. And my sister and her friends knew that and they tormented me with it (and still do, actually). About a year ago, however, I discovered that my 20-something friends at college were calling me Babs, affectionately, because it sounded cute and hip to them. And I wanted to get upset about it, but I couldn't because they meant to harm to me the way my sister did. So I embraced the name and the bad memories that came with it, too. And I started thinking that we overcome our evils by receiving them, welcoming them, not pushing them away and grinding them into the ground.
And for all the rage against empire that John of Patmos was screaming out, he didn't check his own imperial oppression against the women in his society. And today, when the consumerism associated with the whore -- and the rigid sex roles placed on men and women in our society's and John's -- is one way of oppressing us all, I think it's time to pull a Dante and go into Babylon so we can overturn all empire.
So Babalon I am for the moment. And it goes with my profile photo, which is graffiti from México that reads "If we don't think differently, nothing will change." That's apocalypto in a nutshell.