Weekly Newsletter • Volume 3, Number 52
Color Struck: America’s White Jesus is a global export and false product By Wesley Muhammad, Ph.D.
The irony is that most of these same Americans in their heart of hearts are pretty confident any way (FinalCall.com) - From the first time Christian that they know what color Jesus was. They attend children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an churches with images of a tall, long haired, full image of Jesus bearded White Christ is etched man depicted into their minds. in stained glass In North Ameriwindows or ca he is most ofpainted on walls, ten depicted as and they return being taller than home to the his disciples, lean, same depictions with long, flowframed in their ing, light brown living room or hair, fair skin and illustrating their light-colored eyes. family Bibles. Familiar though Further comthis image may pounding the be, it is inherirony is the fact ently flawed. A person with Photo of a mural inside St. Sabina Church in Chicago that America actually has headed by the Rev. Dr. Michael Louis Pfleger these features and physical an obsession with the (prebearing would have looked sumed) color of Christ and very different from everyone else in the region where has exported her White Americanized Savior Jesus lived and ministered. —Popular Mechanics around the world, as recently documented by EdMagazine, December 2002 ward J. Blum and Paul Harvey in their book The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of “Now, it doesn’t matter what color Jesus was. If Je- Race in America (2012). sus were actually White, that’s fine. If he were. But In fact, the world’s most popular and recognizhe was not … Suppose Jesus looked like you [Black able image of Christ is a distinctly 19th-20th censtudents]. You don’t want him now?” —The Honor- tury American creation. It is true that versions of able Minister Louis Farrakhan at Alabama A&M, the “White Christ” appear in European art as early April 10, 2012 as the 4th century of the Christian era, but these images coexisted with other, “nonwhite” represenWhat color was Jesus? Most American Chris- tations throughout European history. The poputians—Black and White—would dismiss this larity of the cult of the Black Madonna and Black question as both irrelevant and unanswerable, as Christ throughout Europe is evidence of the fact the Gospels fail to give us a physical description. that the European “White Christs” never acquired
2 the authority and authenticity that the White the absence of a detailed description of Jesus’ physiChrist now has globally. This Christ and his au- cal appearance in the Gospels (though John the thority are American phenomena. As a predomi- Revelator saw the risen Christ apparently with woonantly Protestant nation Early America rejected ly hair and black feet, Rev. 1:14-15), there are nonthe imaging of Christ that characterized Europe- Biblical evidences that actually allow us to visualize an Catholicism. By the mid-19th the Son of God from Nazareth. century, however, in response to The first-century Jewish writer American expansion, splintering Josephus (37-100 AD) penned the during the Civil War and subseearliest non-Biblical testimony of quent reconstructing, “WhiteJesus. He reportedly had access to ness” took on a new significance official Roman records, on which and a newly empowered “White he based his information, and in Jesus” rose to prominence as the his work Halosis or the “Capture sanctifying symbol of a new na(of Jerusalem),” written around 72 tional unity and power. As Blum A.D., Josephus discussed “the huand Harvey observe: man form of Jesus and his wonder“By wrapping itself with the alful works.” Unfortunately his texts leged form of Jesus, whiteness gave have passed through Christian itself a holy face .… With Jesus as hands that altered them, removing white, Americans could feel that offensive material. Fortunately, sacred whiteness stretched back in however, Biblical scholar Robert time thousands of years and forEisler in a classic 1931 study of Joward in sacred space to heaven and sephus’ Testimony was able to rethe second coming …. The white Je- The Black Madonna of construct the unaltered testimony sus promised a white past, a white based on a newly discovered Old Częstochowa is a represent, and a future of white glory.” Russian translation that preserved As America rose to superpower vered icon of the Virgin the original Greek text. Accordstatus in the 20th century, she being to Eisler’s reconstruction, the Mary, housed at the came the world’s leading producer Jasna Góra Monastery oldest non-Biblical description of and global exporter of White JeJesus read as follows: sus imagery through film, art, in Częstochowa, Poland. “At that time also there appeared American business, and Chrisa certain man of magic power … if tian missions, and has thereby defined the world’s it be meet to call him a man, [whose name is Jeview of the Son of God. This globally recogniz- sus], whom [certain] Greeks call a son of [a] God, able Jesus is a totally American product. Indeed, but his disciples [call] the true prophet … he was he is an American. Warner Sallman’s iconic image a man of simple appearance, mature age, blackof Jesus, called “Head of Christ” (1941), became skinned (melagchrous), short growth, three cubits the most widely reproduced piece of artwork in tall, hunchbacked, prognathous (lit. ‘with a long world history and its depiction the most recogniz- face’ [macroprosopos]), a long nose, eyebrows meetable face of Jesus in the world. By the 1990s it had ing above the nose … with scanty [curly] hair, but been printed over 500 million times and achieved having a line in the middle of the head after the fashglobal iconic status. With smooth white skin, long, ion of the Nazaraeans, with an undeveloped beard.” flowing blondish-brown hair, long beard and blue This short, black-skinned, mature, hunchbacked eyes, this Nordic Christ consciously disguised Jesus with a unibrow, short curly hair and undevelany hint of Jesus’ Semitic, oriental origin—and oped beard bears no resemblance to the Jesus Christ departed from the older European depictions. It taken for granted today by most of the Christian both shaped and was shaped by emerging Ameri- world—the tall, long-haired, long-bearded, whitecan ideas of whiteness. The beloved White Jesus of skinned, blue-eyed Son of God. Yet, this earliest textoday’s world was Made in America. tual record matches well the earliest iconographic What, then, did Jesus actually look like? Despite evidence. The earliest visual depiction of Jesus is a
painting found in 1921 on a wall of the baptismal chamber of the house-church at Dura Europos, Syria, and dated around 235 A.D. The Jesus that is “Healing the Paralytic Man” (Mark 2:1-12) is short and dark-skinned with a small curly afro. This description has now been supported by the new science of forensic anthropology. In 2002 British forensic scientists and Israeli archaeologists reconstructed what they believe is the most accurate image of Jesus based on data obtained from the multi-disciplinary approach. In December 2002 Popular Science Magazine published a cover story on the findings, which confirm that Jesus would have been short, around 5’1”, with hair “short with tight curls,” a weather-beaten face, “which would have made him appear older,” dark eyes and complexion: “he probably looked a great deal more like a darker-skinned Semite than westerners are used to seeing him pictured.” The textual, visual, and scientific evidence agrees, then: Jesus likely was a short, dark-skinned Semite with short curly hair and dark eyes. Colossians 1:15 describes Christ as the “image of the unseen God,” and in the Gospel of John (12:45; 14:9) Jesus declares that whoever sees him has seen God. What Jesus “looks like” then is not irrelevant, as it is in some way a pointer to God Himself. Dr. Wesley Muhammad is an Historian of Religion who earned a Bachelor’s degree (1994) in Religious Studies from Morehouse College and a Master’s degree (2003) and Doctorate (2008) in Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan. He has authored several scholarly studies on the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, including The Truth of God: The Bible, The Qur’an and the Secret of the Black God as well as Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam.
“When the Lord shall raise up coloured historians in succeeding generations, to present the crimes of this nation, to the then gazing world, the Holy Ghost will make them do justice...” David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Published September 28, 1829.
Why Do Our Best Friends Sell Us?
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Time to profile white men? My interview with MSNBC ignites a conservative media firestorm — and exposes America’s dangerous double standard By David Sirota Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographic, white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion. My comment was in response to U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D) floating the idea of employing the Secret Service for such profiling, and I theorized that because the profiling would inherently target white guys, the political response to such an idea might be similar to the Republican response to the 2009 Homeland Security report looking, in part, at the threat of right-wing terrorism. As you might recall, the same GOP that openly supports profiling — and demonizing — Muslims essentially claimed that the DHS report was unacceptable because its focus on white male terrorist groups allegedly stereotyped (read: offensively profiled) conservatives. For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller, to Fox News, to Breitbart, to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze,
4 to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco). The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here. Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups. Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation. Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology. In this mythology, the white man as a single demo-
graphic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist. In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to white people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine. Of course, just as I didn’t make such an argument yesterday on MSNBC, I’m not right now arguing for a system of demographically profiling white guys as a means of stopping mass murderers (that’s right, the headline at Beck’s website, the Blaze, is categorically lying by insisting I did make such an argument, when the MSNBC video proves that’s not even close to true). After all, broad demographic profiling is not only grotesquely bigoted in how it unduly stereotypes whole groups, it also doesn’t actually work as a security measure and runs the risk of becoming yet another Big Brother-ish monster (this is especially true when a lawmaker is forwarding the idea of deploying a quasimilitary apparatus like the Secret Service). Additionally, I’m not saying we should avoid the complex discussion about myriad issues (gun control, mental health, violence in Hollywood products, etc.)
that we are having in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy. On the contrary, I believe it is good news that those nuanced conversations — rather than simplistic calls for punitive measures against a demographic group — are able to happen, and it’s particularly good news that they are persisting in the face of pro-gun extremists’ best effort to polarize the conversation. But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happen because the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic. While such fair treatment should be the norm for all citizens, the double standard at work makes clear it is still a special privilege for a select white few. That’s the issue at the heart of my comment on MSNBC — and it is a pressing problem no matter how much the conservative media machine wants to pretend it isn’t. David Sirota is the author of the new book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now. He co-hosts The Rundown with Sirota & Brown on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Color Struck: America’s White Jesus is a global export and false product; Time to profile white men?