Belief, Culture & Race

Racially accurate communion tables

So six year old my daughter is very sensitive to race and often asks many questions about skin color, why she’s the only brown kid, why no one else is from Sri Lanka, why she’s the only one who has to eat curry, etc.  (My son, on the other hand, has yet to figure out anything beyond race cars and fire trucks…)

This summer, we were processing some of her feelings about race while we were in Sri Lanka, and my daughter asked, “But mama, why is everyone in America white?  Why am I the only one with brown skin?”  (disclaimer:  I *know* not everyone in America is white – please refrain from pointing this out…  however, where we live there are very few non-white people, so it feels like this to my daughter). Wanting to help clarify my daughter’s understanding, I responded, “Well, honey, not everyone is white – there’s __ and __ and __. And everyone you see here is brown, right?”

She was too distracted to acknowledge my right-ness.  “No, mama,” she said.  “EVERYONE is white – and I’m not.  Even Jesus is white!”

Well, she might as well have stuck a knife through my heart.  Those blasted colonialist publishers who had to go and make Jesus look just like them – they were fully responsible for my child feeling on the outs.  I collected myself and told her that actually, Jesus isn’t white, and that the people who painted the pictures of Him got a little too focused on themselves and didn’t pay attention to what Jesus really looked like.  “He probably looked much more like you, hon,” I told her, hoping to soothe her angst.

“Really?”  She was now listening to me, and seemed a bit relieved.  We finished our conversation and the topic seemed resolved for quite some time – until we took communion several months later.

I’d told her she couldn’t take communion because she wasn’t old enough to fully understand what it meant.  She was mad because she loves grape juice.  (I was mad because I prefer wine for communion, but that’s a story for another day).  The ride home from church entailed a detailed explanation of the components of and symbolism behind communion.  Later that week, communion came up in conversation.  I asked my daughter if she remembered what the grape juice represented.

“I know, mama. The grape juice is Jesus’ blood, and the bread is his – his – his – ”

“Body,” I completed the sentence for her.

“Yeah, that’s it!  His body,” she seemed satisfied that the whole ritual was straight in her head. “But mama, there’s still something I don’t understand.”

“Ok, what is it?”

“Well, mama, if the bread represents Jesus’ body, then why do we use white bread?”


As Kathy Khang says, “I need a manual for this.”

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6 thoughts on “Racially accurate communion tables”

  1. When I hear adults, particularly in the church, ask why race and ethnicity matter when we’re all one in Christ, I point to my children and the things they say and observe. Thank you for sharing that story about your daughter…she’s a wise one!

    Some colleagues and I have shared conversations about contextualizing the communion table – white bread or even pieces of matzo don’t necessarily connect with many of us. Rice? Rice cake? Roti? Pita?

    As for a manual, if you find one, let me know. In the meantime, I’ve appreciated having folks like you to help me along!


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