Growing up, I remember hearing someone say, “White is right.” According to them, this meant White people were able to fix anything and make everything right. Upon hearing this, it seemed as though they were telling the truth. On television, Whites were always depicted as problem solvers, leaders and heroes. Majority of what I’d seen and heard growing up reinforced that statement. Even Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, was depicted as a White man. While America was comprised of many ethnic groups, including Blacks, it frequently highlighted the goodness of Whites. Often, Blacks were and still are depicted as criminals, disruptive, problematic and evil in media. Especially Black men.
In “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority”, Tom Burell writes, “Negative media reinforcements not only influence how cops, judges, employers, and others view black males, they affect how young blacks view themselves.”
As a black male, I grew up thinking I had to mimic White behavior to be good or right. I had no idea I was being brainwashed by propaganda and there was a big system of racism controlling how I viewed myself. Not only did I adopt negative views about myself, these incorrect thoughts came into my faith and view of God.
Before reading about Jesus in the Bible and seeking to understand my faith in-depth, I’d seen an image of Him. It was an image of a White man with blue eyes and long wavy brown hair. For years, this image came into my mind as I lifted my hands and worshiped God. Since I could remember, every historical figure in the Bible was depicted as White. From the movie “ The Passion of Christ” to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” America took the image of a White Jesus and made him known to the world. Now that I am older and understand scripture, it is clear that Jesus Christ is of Jewish descent. Jesus’ real ethnicity did not reflect the image that was ingrained in my mind. Trying to imagine a Palestine Jew as Christ literally disgruntled my thoughts and made me curious at the same time. I wanted to know Jesus in the Bible versus the White Jesus I’d seen on television and hanging up on church walls.
When I read “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman, I realized the United States of America established and centered its union around an idol instead of the God in the Bible. Thurman explains how a group of powerful and influential White Americans replaced the true historical Palestinian Jew Jesus with a false Anglo-Saxon (White) Jesus. Sadly, this replacement and improper depiction of Jesus; brainwashed, controlled, and oppressed people for centuries.
From antebellum south slavery to modern day freedom, some Americans have misused the sacred biblical scripture for power and control over Blacks and other races. Insomuch, Black Americans were forced to bow down to the White Jesus instead of the Palestinian Jew Jesus. In America, the Protestant Church was built on the White Jesus image and cultivated it from generation to generation. This White Jesus impacted the black christian experience; however, it didn’t hinder Blacks from a relationship with God. Outwardly, we lived under the scrutiny of White superiority empowered by a White Jesus; but, inwardly we had hope in the real Jesus Christ. When reflecting on the plight of Blacks in America, I could relate to the real Jesus. His journey in the Roman Empire was like ours in America. He suffered; He was abused and oppressed; He was crucified like we were lynched. We are genuine partakers in the sufferings of Christ. In some ways we’re still trapped between the White Jesus and the real Jesus. Today, Blacks have the freedom to choose which Jesus we will serve.
Theologian, Howard Thurman said, “Living in a climate of deep insecurity, Jesus, faced with so narrow a margin of civil guarantees, had to find some other basis upon which to establish a sense of well-being. He knew that the goals of religion as he understood them could never be worked out within the then-established order. Deep from within that order he projected a dream, the logic of which would give to all the needful security. There would be room for all, and no man would be a threat to his brother. “The kingdom of God is within.” “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” After reading this quote, I ask myself do I follow this Jesus? I believe I do, along with other believers which include some White Americans.
In order for Blacks to reclaim Christ, in America, we must access “the Kingdom within” as Thurman described. For Whites, in America, they will have to give up white superiority in order to access “the Kingdom within” Thurman describes. Lastly, James Cone said it best, “For [Martin Luther] King nonviolence was more than a strategy; it was the way of life defined by love for others—the only way to heal broken humanity.” In order for America to reclaim Christ, we must love others and remain a follower of the Real Jesus.