IN THE two months that have passed since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, civilised society has been busy getting its story straight. A number of themes have since emerged to assuage the collective conscience about the evil of racism. They’ve all been grasped eagerly as a means of future-proofing against any real expectations of radical redress. But hey; didn’t we all enjoy our wee jag of righteousness for a few days? And it fair took our minds off the other contagion.

Perhaps the most pathetic response came from the handful of Formula One drivers who insisted on standing while Lewis Hamilton led the rest in taking a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this month. They had all pledged to promote equality in the sport but apparently the act of getting down on one knee for a minute was a step too far. Explaining his reluctance to do this, the Monaco driver Charles Leclerk said: “I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries.” Mr Leclerk believes in the cause, it seems; it’s just that he doesn’t want to upset some people by being open about it.

Others have expressed concerns that the wider political agenda of the Black Lives Matter organisation includes several goals that are too edgy for their cultural palates. Apparently, to take a knee is to risk being condemned as an anti-Christian anarchist, to paraphrase the late troubadour Sydney S Vicious. That Doctor Martin Luther King went down on one knee at Selma in 1965 has been airbrushed away. Far more convenient to associate the gesture with those sinister-looking Black Lives Matter chappies. And anyway, don’t All Lives Matter? Well, yes, but if you’re black it’s rather obvious that some matter more than others (clue: you get extra points if you’re white).

Some, who share my own ethno-cultural heritage, point to the anti-Irish racism that still persists in some pockets of civic Scotland. They may have a point, but only up to a point. The Irish in Scotland achieved parity in levels of pay around 20 years ago, according to research led by Professor Sir Tom Devine. Members of my community now wield considerable influence in every sector of modern Scotland. If we’d been black and Irish we’d still all be tarring the roads and living in slums.

As the Labour MSP Anas Sarwar pointed out last month, progressive and inclusive Scotland doesn’t currently consider that our well-educated and multi-talented Scottish-Asian community members are good enough to occupy any of the top positions in this country’s public life.

Western Christianity doesn’t have a good record on race either. For most of the two millenniums since the death of Christ the church that bears his name undertook a global anti-Semitic defamation. The failure to eradicate this poison provided a spiritual and cultural alibi for the anti-Jewish pogroms which scarred Europe for centuries before the rise of Adolf Hitler. And just to show that we weren’t culturally biased we also organised the crusades to get tore into the Muslims.

The response of the Catholic Church in Scotland in the wake of the George Floyd slaying has been curiously muted. Perhaps I’m being unfair to single it out but this is my church and it speaks for me. A search on the website of the Bishops Conference reveals a number of organisations that provide relief in cash and services to displaced peoples of every ethnic background all over the world, so it can’t be accused of complacency on race issues. On the same website though, there has been no statement by the Scottish Catholic hierarchy explicitly condemning racism or supporting the Black Lives Matter campaign. The Church needs to be front and centre of this. It matters as much as all of its other outreaches.

This may seem a small matter in the grand scheme but it would have been a great comfort to the significant number of Black and Asian Catholics among Scotland’s immigrant and refugee communities as well as those seeking sanctuary here. The Church employs two excellent press officers who, between them, could help their Lordships and Graces craft an eloquent and compassionate message of support for our Black and Asian brothers and sisters.

The Church might also have a care to addressing another issue that has been gnawing away at me ever since I first became aware of the presence of holy pictures at home and at school. In these Jesus was portrayed as a white, blue-eyed, male model when he was actually a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. Now, you can argue all you like about what shade of brown God chose for his only begotten son, but it certainly wasn’t white.

Admittedly, in other parts of the world, Jesus is usually portrayed with local ethnic features locally prevalent in those places. Yet, central to the Church’s concept of Jesus is that he was fully human; walked among humans and was crucified as human. He was a real historical figure, which gets diminished a little if you overlook his colour.

I’m happy to admit here that I’m entertained by the thought of a pink, American, good old boy with his MAGA cap wandering in to Sunday mass and seeing a big, brown, Middle Eastern Jesus smiling down at him, perhaps with a keffiyeh atop his sacred napper.

I suspect that if God had wanted his only begotten son to be white the Nativity might well have occurred nearer the Gallowgate than Galilee and that we’d be hailing Billy Connolly as a biblical scholar to add to his formidable array of talents. Indeed, there might well have been a jaggy bunnet and the Garngad, rather than Golgotha, might have been the scene of his crucifixion and death. So we can only assume God wanted his boy to be brown.

Perhaps our western churchmen better start getting with the Almighty’s picture and start commissioning a few works of art depicting an ethnically authentic Jesus. It might seem a small gesture but it would mean something big.

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