The Power of Imagery–What Does This Sign Really Mean?

gbI have been driving by the above billboard located just off the Dumas Drive access road to 287 North—and it has bothered me from the moment I saw it. Today I took this picture so I could contact the sponsors. I called 855-For-Truth and the recording said, “Thanks for calling Gospel Billboards.” I was put on hold for awhile, then a person named John Martin greeted me and asked what questions I had. I asked him point blank, “Why is a blue eyed white baby on a billboard proof of the evidence of God?” He was stumped. He said, “Ma’am, I don’t know.” He said that Gospel Bill Boards were developed by Christian Aid Ministries. I told him my concerns for what the sign represented, namely, “a white God,” “a white Heaven,” “a white gospel,” and portraying God as white to the exclusion of all other ethnicities. I asked him point blank, “How should a six year old black or dark skinned child view themselves and their relationship with God based on the above billboard?” I asked him if this billboard, through the eyes of black children would make them feel that their existence was outside the realm of the existence of God—as if they are somehow “children of a lesser God?” Martin then said this: “Ma’am I agree with your statements and I agree that the billboard should be more inclusive of a “God of all peoples.” He said that the billboard should have contained a range of hues of ethnicities. He then said that he could assure me that he didn’t believe that anyone at Christian Aid Ministries ever thought about how the image in the billboard would impact or affect the minds and hearts of non-white children. I said, “Maybe they should.” He then told me that I should visit the website, “Gospelbillboards.org” and register my concerns. I told I would most certainly do so. He then offered to pray with me. I told him I was a born again Christian and that it was my prayers to God that led me to do precisely what I was doing. I thanked him kindly and hung up.

If you visit the website, gospelbillboards.org you can read what they are all about. Their website says this: “Our billboard messages are intended to be thought provoking statements and questions. We want to introduce people to a God who is both loving and holy.” Apparently they also want to introduce people to a white God—for white children. So again, my question is what exactly is the image in the billboard really trying to say to anyone who sees it? Why is this particular image “the evidence of God?” Why not a bumble bee? Why not a huge Redwood tree? Why not the moon? Why this image? What could possibly have been in the minds of the folks who sat around a table and decided what was going to be the “thought provoking” imagery in their next billboard?

For anyone who is thinking, “It’s just a sign alongside a freeway lady, what is the big deal?” It’s not a big deal if you accept God and see God through the eyes of whiteness. It is not a big deal for anyone who accepts the entire whitewashing of every image in the Old and New Testament. It is not a big deal for anyone who accepts a blond haired, blue eyed Jesus Christ. It’s not a big deal if all praying hands are white. It’s not a big deal if every angel depiction is white. As far back as I can remember I had a problem with a white God and a white Jesus. I bought my first Bible in 1965 as a high school graduation present to myself. The Bible was full of nicely drawn pictures of a white Moses, a white St. Paul, all white faces at the Last Supper, and a white Jesus. I ripped every one of those pages from my Bible and threw them in the trash. I purged my Bible of white imagery.

Imagery is powerful. It can waste a mind. It can also brainwash and warp a mind. As an African American woman I know the devastating history and power of negative imagery of “folks like me.” I know that imagery of who and what is feminine and desirable can produce results that can cause women who look like me to find themselves mate-less and dateless. I know that, from the cradle to the grave, the entire history of the black experience in America has been aided and abetted with negative imagery—and stereotypes conjured up to go along with the negative imagery.

I have heard the expression, “Girl, just leave white people alone” so much that I should just submit to racism in all its aspects. The billboard along Dumas Drive will not change because of my concerns. This is America. But my final question is this: If this same billboard had the image of a dark skinned baby with the same wording, “There IS evidence for God,” what would the reaction be?

Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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