By Sohale Sizar
November 12, 2015 - huffingtonpost.com
On December 11, 2013, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said, “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. But my point is, how do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?” Megyn Kelly clearly thinks that both Santa and Jesus are white men. And, in fact, many of us view whiteness as representing the glory of God and see blackness as representing a departure from God and an embrace of evil.
Megyn Kelly’s statement—though a couple of years old—is still highly relevant in this day and age where racial tensions are high. Thus, the question remains: does whiteness really have to be the sole color representing God?
For starters, the social construction of whiteness and blackness was—and some argue that it continues to be—an oppressive tool to justify racism: whiteness represents goodness and blackness represents evil; thus, whites are good and African-Americans are evil. Numerous scholars such as David Goldenberg at the University of Pennsylvania provide a fascinating historical analysis of this fallacious argument here
However, limiting God to one color seems to be an epistemological error as it undermines His all-expansiveness. So I started investigating the whiteness of God and it was not until I read Toward a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism
by Toshihiko Izutsu that I really realized that God might not be white.
From a mystical standpoint—which transcends the social constructions of whiteness and blackness—it seems that God is black as much as He is white. He is white light as much as he is black darkness. In this case, blackness is not evil. Rather, it represents the absence of our ego in the presence of God, a testament to His pure Oneness.
In some circles of Zen Buddhism, blackness represents, as scholar Izutsu articulated, “the nullification of the selfhood, the ego conceived and represented as a self-subsistent entity.” In essence, blackness represents the absence of the ego and, thus, testifies to the complete totality of Oneness, that He alone Is, and that all else is an illusion.
In certain schools of Islamic mysticism, blackness is the result of the intensity of light from God. It is similar to when one looks directly at the sun: she or he is blinded from the intensity of its light. Similarly, God is so bright that His light blinds us. This blindness does not simply represent physical blindness, but a blindness towards—as Plato describes in The Republic—the puppets of the cave. Ultimately, this blindness is clear sight that God is all that Is.
In both of these religious perspectives, blackness is a sweet splendor of the Divine, a testament to His all-embracing Presence, and a proclamation of His Oneness. This proclamation is clearly not a representation of Satan and it is misleading to solely label darkness as a metaphor for evil. One could argue that this explanation of Divine blackness is an abstraction, but, in fact, Divine blackness is also physically manifested in the universe.
Black holes are so powerful that—according to current hypotheses of physicists—they let nothing escape their presence. They are the physical epitome of blackness and totality. Ultimately, the totality and blackness of black holes seem to symbolize the totality of God, the fact that He only Is, and that all forms—including light—submit to His presence. And, interestingly enough, within our physical universe lives a smaller black hole: the pupil, which takes in light and allows us to see.
It is profound that this black hole of sorts is within each one of us. Each eye is quintessentially the same, containing a pupil that takes in the light. This commonality to “take in light” is a testament to an all-encompassing Oneness that transcends diversity.
Blackness is an unbelievably meaningful and beautiful expression of God. But, ultimately, one can create a variety of narratives to argue the metaphysical symbolism of blackness or whiteness. We can see it any way we want. Some will see whiteness as holiness and blackness as evil. Some others will see both blackness and whiteness as the majesty and beauty of the Divine.
If we see the world to symbolize Heaven, then it will likely look a bit like Heaven. And if we want it to see it as Hell, then it will seem like Hell. Whatever it is, the perspective that we create for ourselves defines our spiritual viewpoint. So define goodness with whatever color that you want—it does not matter because, at the end of the day, the color does not reveal the Divine. Rather, the Divine reveals the color.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sohale-sizar/why-god-is-black_b_8538216.html