And I suppose it’s time for the Jewish people to not be white too. At least until we need them to be, right?
I saw this on Facebook, and it just kind of set me off. Firstly, there are Romans in there, and no indication that they are other than Italians. There are Greeks as well, come to think of it. I let the headline focus on the Italians, as they have had issues with this before – being white only when convenient (the largest single lynching event in US History was the murder of 11 Italian-Americans in New Orleans in 1891).
But this is not a piece on racism in unsolicited Facebook ads. This is a post on religion, and the insipid need to have religious figures look like you in order to have them matter.
Look, a historic Jesus would have been Semitic, and looked more like an Israeli Jew than anything else. In fact, a forensic reconstruction of a skull from the same place and time reveals a distinctly non-white individual:
So, in the basest sense, there is no white Jesus.
And so the fuck what?
The message is the important part, not the face. If you need Jesus to be white, black, or the chap above, then He is. Full stop. And if you cannot accept that the historic Jesus looks different from yourself, then I think that is very much a ‘you’ problem.
We see a lot of that these days, not just in the insistence that religious figures have to look like us, but in myth as well. As a white person, I am fully aware that I cannot understand the feeling generated by seeing people who look like me on screen – they all do, you know? But as a literal lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, I can also relate to people who do not look like me…Wookies, Elves, Dwarves, Vulcans, Klingons, and the like. Because I can imagine, and thus project myself into the character. I am not sure why this seems to be so hard for so many people, but there it is.
So, in fiction and in religion, we need to have our characters look like ourselves. To me, this weakens both. Requiring a white Jesus, white God, or white superhero betrays a lack in the person making that a requirement. It is their lack of faith or imagination that drives this, not the fault of some artist who drew what he knew, or created a character to sell to the existent market.
So, next time someone demands that you accept that a religious figure looks like them, just accept it, knowing that it isn’t important to the message. And maybe say a prayer that the message is received regardless of how the figure is represented.