November 17, 2022
When I first became conscious of Jesus as a small child, I did not think or feel uncomfortable about his appearance or skin color. Then, as I got older, it occurred to me that Jesus was not like me, especially blond, blue-eyed Jesus, the surfer Jesus. Dark brown-haired Jesus was more comforting, but he still did not look like me. As an adolescent beginning the socialization process, I recall feeling not okay as I became more conscious of my skin color. The message was that there was something wrong with me and my Native people, but I could not understand it.
This was a painful time, not only because Jesus was white, but because I was not, and the white people seemed to either agree with or be influenced by this reality. This judgmental attitude was usually displayed by nervous, uptight behavior when these folks were around me and my family. Then, as I got older, pictures of surfer dude Jesus really pissed me off! By this time, I was conscious of racism and its reality and painful effects. I became defensive about this and angry at white people for what they did to my people and continue to do, via their judgmental attitude towards us. I began to think that Jesus was only in existence for white people and not us people of color.
After witnessing countless bloody confrontations between American Indian Movement leaders and law enforcement and people in general, I began to see the harmful effects of hate. I saw that once hating others no longer worked, the hate turned dangerously inward. That’s when I realized I must find a new way of thinking and living. My college professor and life-long friend, Dr. Mack D. Gift, taught me how dangerous self-hatred can be, and how it becomes self-destructive, even leading to suicide. I decided to change my ways. I did not immediately turn to Jesus for help, but rather to the rational, secular way of seeing my fellow man/woman.
Many years later, I would have a deeply personal encounter with Jesus and begin to develop a special relationship with he/she. I can tell you from this experience, although I did not see his face, Jesus is not blonde! He has long dark hair, and although I could not really verify the color of his skin, he is not a surfer dude. And what I can also tell you is that he/she loves us all, so very deeply, regardless of our skin color!