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What Color is Your God?

What color is your God? I envy my friends their relationship with rocks and rivers, ocean and trees. God for me will always wear a human face: Our Lady, blessed mother of the world, and Jesus.

I’m knee-deep in a thesis for my master’s degree about racism and White Christianity. Womanist scholar Mukti Barton writes that while feminists have asked if a male God can save women, white people have yet to ask:

Can a black God save white people?

Because regardless of what you believe about whether Jesus was divine, as a historical flesh-and-blood man, Jesus wasn’t white. Some scholars even point to our use of “Middle East” as a convenient way of avoiding the reality that Jesus came from a peninsula in eastern AFRICA. Jesus is from Africa, people. Jesus is a black man.

I’m trying to write about this and feeling stuck, because I know exactly how my body feels about Jesus as a black man.

I’m afraid of him. I’m a white woman, raised to be afraid of black men. Kelly Brown Douglas has a brilliant book in which she explains that to demonize a people you first have to sexualize them. My nervousness around black men is rooted in the lynchings in the American South. To imagine a black man saving me has an edge of erotic danger. Racism alive and well in my white female body.

I can look this in the face without becoming overwhelmed by guilt because I remember that I did not invent this. I carry it, name it, and resist it.

I’ve been invested, in this blog, in looking at the costs of racism to me as a white woman. Not to minimize the costs of racism to people of color, but to find motivation for me to resist and call my people, white people, to resistance.

One cost of racism is that we white Christians have made God in our image. Malcolm X told us long ago that white Christians aren’t worshiping God, we are worshiping whiteness. We’re worshiping ourselves.

I definitely don’t mean to suggest some romanticized ideal where black people rescue white people from white racism. (And there’s a whole other correlation between the crucifixion of a black Jesus and lynching of black men in the American South…I’ll write more on that later.) We need to do our own work.

I think we can start with refusing to display a white baby Jesus in our nativity sets. And as naive as it sounds, I think we  white people have to confess our racism as sin and commit ourselves to a new relationship with a new God….one that perhaps has yet to be revealed in our hearts and lives as white people.

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4 Responses to “What Color is Your God?”

  1. DeEtte Waleed says:

    When I was in Africa I was always disturbed to see pictures of white Jesus, not even Jewish, everywhere, in churches, on buses. We (white people) not only worship whiteness, we have taught black people to worship our whiteness.

    My favorite nativity set is one that shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus as Massai people under a traditional tree.

  2. Clinee says:

    Great post!!!

  3. Ls Folly says:

    Whowowow ow ow ! Jesus came from a peninsula in eastern AFRICA? I see Galilee which is Near East or Middle East. I believe that the Shroud of Turin is the real deal. I have seen light skins and black skins (true not white white) with those features. I see a Semite by the close-set deep eyes and high cheekbones and long cheeks (some US NDNs have those long cheeks too) – even Berber or Kurd.

    As one looks across the globe one can see that interracial mixing has occurred for eons regardless of contemporary history – you can watch as the features blend into another ethnic group entirely as you travel. But no I do not see a black man – I see a North African Semite.

    Now I have to understand “platonic dualism” ooohh this is more scholarly than I am used to. My immediate reaction to the description of Kelly Brown Douglas – that sexualization must occur before demonization. At first I rebelled. Unlike you I was not raised to either hate or fear blacks. I have black relatives but not close. But we were clearly taught never to be prejudice because we also were victims of prejudice. In my life blacks have sexualized themselves, repeatedly. From getting kidnapped at gunpoint and raped because I am “white” to all the young black men who hounded me or tried to play me, telling me that my refusal proved that I am racist – like that’s really going to change my mind! ha ha. But even today’s most popular music – black rap & hip-hop has almost totally destroyed feminist progress by relegating women to sex object only – unless she has $$$$. So I see that most visible black people choose to sexualize themselves and those around them. So here also is something new to me that I am going to have to examine and mull on for a bit. Although in support of the premise it is true that sex is governed by the lowest chakra and people who spend their lives in the lower chakras are not the ideal – so the premise fits across many belief systems perhaps. Trying to think of it in terms of other people who are demonized – Jews. idk. We were warned against Jewish boys because they were “fast.” I thought ALL the boys were too “fast.” he he

    I was not imprinted young so when I shed the atheist teachings I learned of the Christian God but in truth I just can’t visualize a guy in the sky. Mine is more sci-fi – more a creative consciousness in the ether type thing. Even the whole sex thing – I don’t think of God as sexual but in truth I know that the voice of God – Angels is most often male. But males I know have female Angels so maybe it is based on who the recipient of the knowledge/vision is? The Bible says Angels are creatures set apart and they don’t have a sex – but I never met a sexless one and even books on Angels always assigns a sex – or the ones I have read anyways.

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