Motivated by the popularity of the History Channel’s current biblical potboiler*, Chauncey Devega wades into the confluence of history, belief, and culture to wonder why, in the popular American imagination, Jesus is always imagined as white like me.
The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was not “white.” He was not European. Based on the scholarly consensus, the historical Jesus would be a Middle Eastern Jew of medium, if not dark, complexion. He was certainly dark enough to have spent time in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to not have had his skin tone commented upon or noted.
This Jesus would be hounded and harassed by the TSA, looked at as a de facto “suspicious” person in post 9/11 America, and be racially profiled by the national security state. The historical Jesus would likely be subject to stop and frisk policies by the New York police and others. If it were too late at night, and the historical Jesus was trying to get a cab–especially if he were not attired “professionally”–he would be left standing curbside because brown folks in their twenties and thirties who look like him are presumed to be criminals.
*Which I am industriously ignoring.