“And the news reporter says: Jesus is white.”
Thus begins slam poet Crystal Valentine’s piece where she recalls Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s declaration during a 2013 broadcast that the historical Jesus Christ and fictional Santa Claus are both white men.
Kelly’s assertion caused a firestorm when it happened, but in a performance at the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam, Valentine returns to the controversy with a poem that brilliantly shuts down Kelly, and all the white gatekeepers who take it upon themselves to rewrite history so that it suits them.
“She says it with a smile on her face, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world,” Valentine recites, in a clip of the performance posted by Button Poetry on April 21.
“So sure of herself, of her privilege, her ability to change history, rewrite bodies to make them look like her.”
She continues: “What makes a black man a black man? Is it a white woman’s confirmation? Is it the way she’s allowed to go on national television and autocorrect the Bible and God himself? Is it the way reporters retell their deaths like fairy tales? Is it the way they cannot outrun a bullet?“
And, then, she went on to powerfully add:
Whether the historical Jesus Christ was actually black is, of course, up for debate. But what isn’t up for debate is that Jesus, a Jew living in the Arab world, was definitely not a white man with long blonde hair and blue eyes (as he’s so often depicted in classical art).
But Valentine’s poem is deeper than just an inquiry into whether or not Jesus was black. It’s about the privilege in being able to declare that “Jesus is white,” or that “racism is over.” By including images of the young black men who have been murdered by the police today, and the white reporters who tell their stories in her poem, Valentine is also bringing up a question about something we so rarely talk about: Who really controls the narratives of black and brown people?