Offended by white Jesus in classic paintings, man sues Met for violating Civil Rights

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Alex Proimos/Wikimedia Commons)The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The MET is being sued by a man of "Hebrew and African descent" for its display of paintings depicting the life of Christ, with Jesus shown as a white male.

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – A patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is suing New York City and the iconic museum for violations of the Civil Rights Act, claiming both are racially insensitive and in violation of the law for displaying paintings depicting Jesus as a white male.

According to the complaint filed by Justin Renel Joseph in U.S. District Court for the Southern Region of New York, several paintings – including "The Holy Family with Angels" by Sebastiano Ricci, "The Resurrection" by Perugino, "The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes" by Tintoretto, and "The Crucifixion" by Francesco Granacci – are racist because they only picture Jesus Christ as an "Aryan."

The text of Joseph's complaint is not yet available online with the court, but is posted on his own website. However, Christian Examiner has confirmed the filing with the court.

Joseph, 33, claims in the complaint that he is a "biracial male who is of Hebrew and African descent." He also discloses that he "possesses black hair like wool and skin of bronze color, and is a Christian."

The implication that someone who possesses physical features like the Plaintiff could not be the important historical and public figure of Jesus Christ and that his features were falsified to reinvent Jesus Christ into a blonde haired, fair-skinned and Aryan male, caused the Plaintiff to feel, among other things, rejected and unaccepted by society.
- Justin Renel Joseph

Joseph also claims he suffered "emotional and psychological harm" when he was exposed to the "racist" masterpieces originating in the 16th and 18th centuries. In the complaint, he said he found the paintings to be "anti-Semitic, racist and offensive and tantamount to the cultural theft of an important historical and public figure (e.g., a culture icon) from the Hebrew people and the people of Middle-Eastern descent (together, the 'Minority Victims of Cultural Theft')."

"The implication that someone who possesses physical features like the Plaintiff could not be the important historical and public figure of Jesus Christ and that his features were falsified to reinvent Jesus Christ into a blonde haired, fair-skinned and Aryan male, caused the Plaintiff to feel, among other things, rejected and unaccepted by society," Joseph alleges in the complaint.

A spokeswoman for the museum did not discuss the merits of the lawsuit, or the lack thereof, but she told the New York Post the paintings are important for their historic and artistic value.

"When they were painted, it was typical for artists to depict subjects with the same identity as the local audience. This phenomenon occurs in many other cultures, as well," the MET's Elyse Topalian told the newspaper.

That is, of course, true. Sixth century images of Jesus from Anatolia presented Jesus as olive-skinned with almond shaped eyes and a beard like those worn by Greek-speaking church fathers. Eighteenth century Ethiopian art depicted Jesus as black with short, curly hair. Haitian art in the 19th century also depicted Jesus as black.

Joseph called the MET's inclusion of the works in its collection "an extreme case of discrimination" and said the City of New York was guilty of violating the Civil Rights Act by institutionalizing "white supremacy propaganda" with the use of public funds.

Joseph described himself to North Carolina's Black Talk Radio as "a philosopher" who has just written a book called The Universe of Nothing but Love. He also said on the radio program he had been involved with a "racist situation" with the New York Police Department and Bellevue Hospital a few days before visiting the MET.

That event, he said, set him on the path toward filing the lawsuit over the artwork.

Joseph alleges in that incident via a website of his own creation that he went into a local NYPD station to report a crime (harassment by a neighbor) and the police would not take a statement from him. They did, however, take one from his wife, an attorney.

According to the website, Joseph then was arrested for being "too excited" and sent to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.

"The doctors at Bellevue Hospital among other things: forcibly restrained, kidnapped, falsely imprisoned, forcibly drugged (despite being told that it went against the victim's religious beliefs) and denied attorney visitation. The doctors never ran any tests, asked questions about the victim's medical history, or asked what brought him to the hospital before these crimes were committed. They perpetrated these crimes based on what the NYPD (who are not doctors) told them," Joseph alleges on his website.

With respect to the artwork at the MET, Joseph told the radio program that he has a "sound lawsuit."

"The government is paying for this art, so it's government speech," Joseph told the radio program. "The MET is a public venue so it can't show art catered only to white people. This is what I'm calling 'Whites Only Art.'"

"How I'm cheated by society for the color of my skin is disgusting," Joseph said.