Why Our Nativity is White

Let me start out by saying I went back and forth on if I should even write this post. In fact, I did write it several times, and then quickly deleted it, because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, or making a stir where it’s not my place. But that needs to stop.

Generally, I like to keep things pretty upbeat with crafts, and activities for kids. But right now I’m gonna talk about something from my Mama heart.

Last week when I posted about When Tradition Trumps Theology, I had a few people ask me why I didn’t include the fact that Jesus wasn’t white.

What’s the issue?

If you didn’t know about this fact, let me remedy the issue. Jesus was not white, he was actually Middle Eastern. And I’m writing a whole new post about this issue, because this issue is not as easy to remedy in the home.

You see, I can tell you to call the stable a “home,” and encourage you to add more people to the caravan. But I can’t tell you to buy a more diverse nativity. I can’t tell you to go buy a play nativity with a baby Jesus who is a person of color. I can’t tell you that, because there aren’t any.

Our home is biracial. My girls are white, yes. But they are also Mexican. I want them to be proud of their Mexican heritage. I want them to speak Spanish, and to be excited about Dia de los Reyes, because it is a part of them, and they are proud. So in our home we look for diversity. We tell our toddler being bilingual is a super power. We read books about how our differences are beautiful. We buy black babies, and latina babies, and asian babies, because this is a value in our home.

So why is the baby Jesus in our play nativity white? Because there really aren’t play nativities featuring people of color. I mean, racial diverse nativities are hard to find in general, but play nativities are near impossible, and when I do find one they are so much more expensive than a white nativity, I would almost call them inaccessible.

Technically, our Little People nativity does feature people of color. There is an asian wiseman, a black wiseman, and a shepherd that I want to believe is latino. However, Mary is white, the Joseph is white, the angel is definitely white, and baby Jesus is blonde hair and blue eyed.

Why is this an issue?

The gospel of the Christmas story is this: God came down to be with people, or ALL races. Black, white, latino, asian, etc. Every tribe, tongue, ethnicity, nationality. However, if a little black girl can’t see herself represented, is this story really for her? If a little Korean boy has only seen a caucasian baby Jesus, will he really believe that Jesus came to identify with him?

And this goes far beyond just nativity scenes, this is a trend in Bible Curriculum, storybook Bibles, and Christian media. And though I have to say, I am pleased that there is a trend of characters in storybook Bibles taking on a darker hue, I have yet to see a Storybook Bible feature a main character of of Asian or African descent (with exception of Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu). And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to find some of these resources in Spanish!

Church, if we really believe that Christ came for ALL people, and that “Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord” (Romans 14:11), we better be certain we have done everything we can to make sure every little boy and girl knows that Jesus loves them and came for them, no matter the color of their skin.

Some at this point may be thinking, “calm down, it’s just a toy.” But here’s the thing. Toys are for play, and play is how children learn. The way a person person is represented in media (including toys) effects how people view them, and also how they view themselves. What a powerful thing it could be for my girls to see a Latina Mary in their nativity, and know that this story is for them.

Let’s get to work.

Don’t think of this as a complaint. I have no room to complain. People of color have been saying this for centuries. I’m white. I’m privileged. I could have lived my whole life and never had to think about this. But the facts are, I married a wonderful Mexican man, fell in love, and we have two little chicana babies. So this matters to me. But I’m not complaining. Instead, take this as a call to action. Let’s do better. I don’t have all the answers, but her are some ideas:

  1. When you see a racially diverse nativity (and other products) buy it if you can. This raises the demand. Shows suppliers this is something we want. Even if you are white, and your children are white, it is good for them to be exposed to positive diversity. It effects the way they view minorities.
  2. If you are in a store and only see white nativities, ask if they have more diverse options. Again, this communicates a demand.
  3. E-mail suppliers. Again, let’s make some noise and make change.

What ideas do you have for addressing this issue? Comment below.

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