After activist Shaun King called for all statues of White Jesus to be destroyed, Twitter went into a frenzy.
Almost overnight, the internet was set alight by activist Shaun King's statements about how statues of "White Jesus" should be taken down and destroyed. This unsurprisingly did not sit too well with most Christians in the United States. Many wondered what race had to do with Christianity while others could not have agreed more. Most dangerously, King's statements were misconstrued and used by right-wing media publications to push the narrative that the Black Lives Matter movement was simply looking for blood. Though King is not the spokesperson for the movement, he did indeed have a point.
"I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down," King tweeted. "They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been." Of course, this sent Twitter into a frenzy. He better explained his argument in a follow-up tweet: "Experts have long since said this is likely the most accurate depiction of Jesus. White Americans who bought, sold, traded, raped, and worked Africans to death, for hundreds of years in this country, simply could not have THIS man at the center of their faith." He also attached a digital depiction of what experts believe Jesus may have looked like.
In the replies, folks provided evidence that suggests Jesus may not have been White. In Revelation 1:14-15, Jesus's skin is described as "bronze" and his hair as "wool." The hairs of his head, it reads, "were white as white wool, white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace." The "wool" texture is similar to that of hair typically seen in people of color and the "bronze" skin, of course, gives us indications about his race. What is more compelling, however, is the story of Jesus. Most historians agree that Jesus lived in the Middle East, Newsweek reports. He most likely lived in what is now modern-day Egypt.
But what does that have to do with White supremacy? Well, Jesus's image was manipulated in order to better fit the White colonizer. If the world's savior looked like a White man, the colonization of the mind would become easier for colonizers. It is, after all, not just conjecture that White imperialists forced the people in the lands they enslaved to convert to Christianity through active coercion. For instance, Christianity thrived along the West coast of India during the 15th and 16th centuries as a direct result of the forced conversions carried out by Portuguese colonists.
To then continue to depict Jesus as a White man in our statues is deeply problematic. It reflects the enduring oppression and colonization inflicted by White slave owners and pillagers. It perpetuates the idea that even in religion Black folks must worship a White man—which, apart from being factually incorrect, maintains the trauma of America's history of slavery. Is this the most important conversation we should be having right now? No. We should be working on defunding police departments and correct systemic racism in other forms. Nonetheless, this is an important cultural pain point that definitely needs to be addressed.