Whitewashing in Christian Motifs – Jillian Ward

Christianity is known for whitewashing all types of Christian motifs: angels are always pale-faced, and Jesus himself was portrayed as significantly paler in skin color than he was known to be from his life. Most depictions of Adam and Eve, too, are white. This, of course, stems from the deep, racist history of Christianity across the world; evangelicals would travel to tribe-owned lands where people of color lived in peace to push their religion on them, often inciting violence as a means of coercion. The belief was that people of color were less “cultured,” and thus, they needed to be taught by white people how to be human. This implies a belief that white people were better than people of color — more intelligent, and more human than them, too. However, a piece currently residing at the Ackland depicts one of the most famous Biblical stories, Adam and Eve, through a black lens; Eve is a woman of color, and the painting itself represents one of the songs sung by people of color centuries ago. In that song, the serpent of the tale “wink’d his eye,” and in the painting, he does, too. Subverting the typical whitewashing and white assumptions of Christian motifs in this way forces us to question why depictions of Christian stories have always involved whites and not blacks, and it gets us to evaluate the cultural history behind Christianity and its impact on people of color through time.