Growing up, I would watch various Bible stories on Sunday mornings before church. On those cartoons, I never saw anyone that looked quite like me. Mary was white, the disciples were white, and even Jesus Christ himself had pale skin, differing from my own. This led me to wonder "Are there black people in Heaven?" Was there something wrong with the color of my skin for no one of my complexion to be represented in the cartoons that taught me about the Good Book? Does God like black people?
Well, for those of you who may not know, the answer is YES! God LOVES black people just like He loves people of any other race, but to a child, this matter can be confusing. I have yet to find a Bible story cartoon that depicts the people of the Bible with the diversity of the world. Now I know some people may believe that it is just a cartoon and should have no effect on whether you think God loves you or not, but through the eyes of a brown skin child, if the one person you are taught to know as perfect is depicted as a white man, you may begin to feel as if you are inadequate due to the extra pigmentation of your own skin.
I actually use to believe that Jesus, along with everyone else in the Bible, was white because that's all I was exposed to, but as I got older, I realized how flawed that theory was. Being that many of the stories in the Bible were set in the Middle East and Africa, it seems impossible for all of the people in the Book to have European white skin. While it ultimately doesn't matter what color the people of the Bible were, it is quite interesting to see how they are portrayed in America.
It is kind of crazy to think that even with something so sacred as the Bible and its stories,White America is determined to find a way to take ownership over it. Whether they realize it or not, their personalization of the Bible stories shown on television can have a lasting effect on the children that watch it long after the show ends.
What does this tell us about the importance of representation? Well, nothing that us black people didn't already know. It's just like only seeing white Barbie dolls when you pass by the toy aisle in a store or only seeing white models plastered on every billboard you pass when driving through the city. If you don't see someone that looks like you, you begin to feel like you aren't good enough to be represented. The only difference is instead of white dolls, kids are being shown a white Jesus.
After years of buying into the "white is right, black is wack" mentality, I have finally seen the light. It's things like lack of representation in the media that causes the issues of self hate that I use to struggle with. I use to hate that my skin was so dark and that my hair was so kinky because girls like that weren't shown to me in the media. A majority of the girls I saw on tv or on billboards had long, blonde hair, with light blue eyes and pale skin. How is a black girl suppose to believe that she is perfect just the way she is when the media pretends as if people that look like her don't exist?
Unfortunately, I am not the only young girl to ever feel this way and I won't be the last. While the media is progressively getting better in acknowledging the existence of other races, the coverage is nowhere near equal. So what you may see as just a cartoon used to teach Bible stories, I see a much deeper rooted issue of lack of representation. If cartoons such as these are not going to correctly represent Bible characters according to their geographical regions, they should ensure that every nationality/ race is represented because at the end of the day, the Christians that read the Bible and follow Christ consist of more than those with lighter skin.