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Jesus and race

Armstrong Williams | 1/9/2014, 1:02 p.m.
Armstrong Williams

What explosive emotions erupted when Megan Kelly of Fox News declared that Jesus and Santa were white men. Let me focus on Jesus, which will readily address the Santa nonsense.

Jesus was Black.

No wait, Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, so he was probably more olive-skinned, possibly browner, but definitely not Black.

Of course, I am kidding—Jesus was Asian … or Indian. No matter what, I think we can at least agree that Jesus was not white with blond hair and blue eyes, but only because his hair was brownish and eyes were hazel.

In America—a country obsessed with race, privilege and oppression while being largely ignorant of other cultures’ historical narratives—it should come as no surprise that many believe the race of Jesus is just as important as his message.

I will settle the question of Jesus’ ethnological makeup once and for all right now, as I have uncovered a divine truth: No one will ever know exactly what race Jesus was and arguing about it is pointless. In America, we almost always see Jesus depicted as a white man. This is because America has had a white majority throughout its history, thus media and art has catered to its primary audiences. For many in the Black Christian community though, this has made Jesus less relatable.

When you take a look at the history of the Roman province of Judea during the late Roman Republic and early empire period—the time just prior to after Jesus’ life—you see a group struggling to assert itself and its identity in the face of imperial subjugation. From the Maccabees to the destruction of the Second Temple, the Hebrews fought with Rome constantly.

Jesus as the suffering servant speaks to Black America: slavery, oppression, crucifixion/lynching, and the struggle to be recognized as a full citizen and have his particular culture respected and protected by the majority.

But image can mean everything, and white Jesus sends a mixed message to certain people. The visage represents superiority and privilege; the history says struggle. But what if I told you that the Bible depicts Jesus as Black? Not only that, his mother was from Africa? And there is evidence that the original Jews were Black, not olive- to brown-skinned? Suddenly, a Black Jesus changes the narrative. It makes sense and speaks to the Black community in a way a white Jesus never could.

Except Black Jesus is as much a myth as white Jesus.

The history of the Middle East is the story of conquest, invasion and migration. Wave after wave of peoples were pushed in and out of the area. From Africa to Asia to Europe, the region has been in flux since the dawn of recorded history. Pointing to a modern group or subculture as proof of Jesus’ true race is a fallacy. It assumes that if people living in a place look like this now, then they must have looked like that 2,000 years ago. We have paintings of Judeans from the time period, but that is as close as we can get to nailing down what Jesus looked like, and that means little.