Suza: I have decided to let Jesus be…


Columnist Walter Suza accepts Jesus as he would accept others in light of freedom and love. 

Walter Suza

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a collective series conducted by Walter Suza. 

Close your eyes and imagine you are in a meeting with the Christian Lord, Jesus. What does he look like? What would you ask him?

Recently I have found myself wanting to meet with Jesus to ask him why a Black man is shot and killed while jogging, but others in our society have the power to defy state orders and carry military-grade weapons in public. 

The heartache that comes from the denial of civil liberties to some groups while others benefit brought the following passage from the Bible to mind. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” 

As a child, my mother made us pray each night in front of a replica statue of the white Infant Jesus of Prague

I also served as one of the altar boys at the local church near my hometown in Tanzania. The congregation was Black, and the priest was white — and we knew him as Father. 

The church was decorated with images of Jesus as a white man with blue eyes and blond hair

One of the statues seemed so real with the blood that was flowing out of the wounds from the wreath of thorns on Jesus’ head. 

At that time, it made sense to me that Jesus would be “The light of the world.”

Growing up I became aware that the world around me was misaligned when compared to the gentle and kind Jesus from my childhood. 

I found myself asking:

“Was the white Jesus on the side of white people or for all people across the world?” 

“How could a white God allow his white children to subject his enslaved kids to immense pain for hundreds of years?”

“Would it be possible for white Christians to accept a Black Jesus and still proclaim “He is the truth and life?’” 

“Would the United States seek to uphold the motto “In God We Trust” if God were viewed as Black?”

These questions remained in my mind for a significant part of my adult life until visiting the Sistine Chapel several years ago. 

The tour of the Sistine Chapel was deeply spiritual and the frescoes were breathtaking. Throughout the tour, my eyes fixated on the incredible images of the white Jesus. I found myself thinking, “Are you white, Jesus?” “Is God white?” 

Asking those questions while in the Sistine Chapel created immense sadness in me. I could not hold back tears as I remembered my mother’s loyalty to this “white God.” 

She promised me the white Jesus would always love me and be by my side. 

Thinking about my mother and my childhood experiences in church, I wondered, “Should I spend the rest of my life debating whether Jesus was white or striving to demonstrate love to all people?” 

That very moment inside the Sistine Chapel, I made the decision to let Jesus be white.

I believe my acceptance of the image of Jesus as a white man is my way to freedom. With freedom comes the realization that there is love in all people. 

This realization also challenges me to see love in all living things. 

As our nation grapples with heated debates, cultural divisiveness and hate, I close my eyes and wish for God to say these words to all of us:

“You do not know me well until you are able to see me in all my myriad faces.” 


Walter Suza, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Agronomy.