As a Black Child, I Couldn’t Understand Why Jesus Had Blue Eyes

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Vintage illustration of the Good Shepherd with Jesus holding a lamb; lithograph, 1930s.CreditCreditGraphicaArtis/Getty Images.  The Muslim Times has the best collection on rational study of Christianity and on racism

Source: New York Times

By Eric V Copage

I must have been no older than 6. I was in church in my hometown, Los Angeles. Parishioners fanned themselves to stay cool in the packed, stuffy room.

On one side of each fan was an illustration of an Ozzie and Harriet-like American family — father, mother, son, daughter. All were black, like the parishioners in the church. On the other side was an illustration of Jesus Christ — fair skinned, fair haired, blue eyed.

Something seemed amiss to me about that depiction of Christ. Why was he white? Why was he not black, like my family, like me?

As I grew older, I learned that the fair-skinned, blue-eyed depiction of Jesus has for centuries adorned stained glass windows and altars in churches throughout the United States and Europe. But Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.

Many black Americans I met over the years not only embraced that image, but also insisted upon it. In a July 2002 episode of the radio show “This American Life,” an artist, Milton Reed, who made his living painting murals inside people’s apartments in public housing projects in Chicago, said black clients often asked him to paint Jesus — and insisted that Mr. Reed paint him white.

[Use the comments to tell us what you see when you visualize Christ. Your response may be highlighted in this article.]

With the approach of Easter, and these memories at the front of my mind, I decided to dig a little into this topic.

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