By Imam Vernon M. Fareed
Whenever there are discussions about race and racism, typically one aspect of this subject becomes taboo and that is “religion.” It is imperative that we overcome the fear to address this vital concern if we ever intend to get at the root of the problem. Racism is such an ugly and deep rooted issue until it requires us to experience some discomfort to achieve comfort. Upon reflection it makes perfect since that a conspirator would seek to utilize religion to funnel a scheme like racism through. The logic behind this is that religion is one of the most powerful influences in the life of the human person. The Black church was given a picture of Christ Jesus in white flesh, and this same image was portrayed as the “Son of God.” What by-passed the consciousness of most African-Americans is this rationale; if Jesus is the Son of God and he is white then God must also be white. If you follow the rationale it also suggests that the family of God must also be white! To add to this suggestion of superiority, the angels are presented as white also.
Once you combine the influence of racial superiority promoted via religion with post slavery indoctrination, you now have a strong formula for racism. We must take time here to emphasize that the Religion of Christianity is not the target – racism is the target. We trust that people will find the will to suppress the sensitivities long enough to take an unbiased look at what has crept into religion, and how it has been used to promote this ugly scheme. Some Christian leaders within the African-American community became aware of the white Christ image years ago, and they initiated a plan to counter it. Instead of promoting “no graven image” as the strategy, they chose to set up the image of a Black Christ! Admittedly, if one were to examine evidence of the physical presentation of Jesus in Bible Scripture, they would at least conclude that he was a person of color. In the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelations there is mention of his hair being like wool, and his feet were like burnished bronze and eyes like fire. This literal reading and interpretation truly begs to question, how did the image of a white Christ come into being? At the very least students of religious scripture would have to admit that this is suspicious!
I am not one to advocate for a Black image of Jesus Christ, nor do I believe that we should be playing up the skin color of any of the Messengers and Prophets of God. My objective here is to expose the scheme of racism that’s been hiding in religion, and to highlight the damaging effects that it has had on the psyche of people of color.
Perhaps some of our leaders will be courageous enough to bring up the role that religion plays in promoting racism the next time this discussion surfaces!