Thursday, February 11
Song of Songs 1:5 – Black am I and beautiful, O Jerusalem girls, like the tents of Qedar, the pavilions of Salmah.
After appearing in the 1968 London production of "Hair," Marsha Hunt and the image of her large Afro became an international icon of black beauty. She made history as the first Black woman to cover England's high fashion glossy, Queen, and appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 1969, a huge feat during that era.Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images
It is vital to note that as far back as Jerome’s translation this passage caused racial anxiety, the technical name is melainophobia, for early translators and church fathers. It is a mistake to think that the 1,200 years prior to the institution of African slavery were free of prejudice based on skin tone and body characteristic. The most potent tools of institutional racism are present in any dominant culture’s assertions around beauty.
In Race Matters: 25th Anniversary Addition, Cornel West writes: “White supremacist ideology is based first and foremost on the degradation of black bodies in order to control them. One of the best ways to instill fear in people is to terrorize them. Yet this fear is best sustained by convincing them that their bodies are ugly, their intellect is inherently underdeveloped, their culture is less civilized, and their future warrants less concern than that of other peoples.”
Action step: today, with brutal honesty look deeply into the visual representations of not only biblical, but all peoples in your local setting. Is there a white Madonna and child in your stained glass? What posters hang in your church? Are there representatives of people of color? If so look deeply at these. Do the figures conform to Eurocentric ideals of beauty? Drilling deeper, do materials connected to your church implicitly or explicitly promote Eurocentric heteronormative images of Christianity. Antiracism is anti-objectification and normalizing of the dominant culture.