“He’s Got The Whole World In His [VERY WHITE] Hands”

“He’s Got The Whole World In His [VERY WHITE] Hands”

This post started by accident. 

I went to the website of a Friends church out west today, seeking information about a dispute of which readers have heard a good deal here. 

Didn’t find any, but while browsing, saw an image that seemed very striking, for the church’s Vacation Bible School:


The caption for it was — as thee might expect, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.”

Some of us might know that the song which gave rise to this meme is one of the classic black spirituals. 

Spirituals-TriumphantBut maybe many of us don’t.

Wikipedia says it was first published a 1927 collection, Spirituals Triumphant. And while the song has been recorded by numerous artists of various backgrounds, I’m old enough to remember 1958, when a British teenager, Laurie London, became a one-hit wonder when his version, a smash in the UK, managed the then-unthinkable and  crossed the Atlantic to hit #2 on the U.S. pop charts.

Laurie London, whose popstar career was very short; he was last spotted running a pub near London.

I say this because after pondering the image above, I couldn’t help but notice that the hands in it (or at least the wrists), are quite noticeably caucasian — er, white.

It made me wonder: The hands for the whole world are like that? Hmmmm.

How widespread, I wondered was this probably unconscious, or at least unthinking, notion?

For an answer, I turned to that source of all knowledge, google. And In a flash, I had my answer. 

Or rather, answers. Lots of them. Here are a few:

Look: it’s Jesus of Minnesota!








The BIG white hand . . .








And who could resist the Big “He” of the YouTube Singalong video especially designed for kids . . . .







Or is this the Jesus of Wisconsin? Maybe Vermont? (NAAAHH. Everybody knows there are no Christians left in Vermont.)











Let me know if this is getting repetitive . . .








The Whole World In His (White) Fingers??







Very Crafty; making sure kids get the right (white) message.


Well, you get the idea. And I hope it makes some readers stop and think.

Because after a pretty long search, these were the only kind of images I found coming up on google: white hands, white God guys.

With one exception.
Only one. But a BIG one:


A word about artist Kadir Nelson: he just happens to be utterly awesome. He did a series of large paintings, based on old black and white photos, of stars and teams from the historic Negro League baseball world. I saw them on tour. They were monu-freaking-mental.


And in this kid’s book, he features a multi-ethnic family, with mostly images of folks of color, to bring the song to life, and back to its roots.

I just ordered Nelson’s “Whole World” book.

I wonder if any Friends churches might want to take a look at it also. Or maybe some unprogrammed meetings too.

Friends are advised.




4 thoughts on ““He’s Got The Whole World In His [VERY WHITE] Hands””

  1. Thanks for this beautifully illustrated blog. Sixteen years ago, an African American educator and I (he completing his PhD) did a presentation for students at Meredith College concerning the lack of people of color in children’s books. I had not realized at the time just how white the images were. Later, when I wanted to get my grandson a child friendly Bible, I pulled multiple copies off the store shelf before I found one with faces that weren’t all clearly white. Finally, when I did cross stitch pictures that included children, I had to redo my pattern to include children of color. I became aware that cross stitch patterns did not contain people of color. I learned how easy it is to be blinded by the lack of diversity and absorb the cultural assumptions of racial superiority without question. Adults must do the changing.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I don’t generally go looking for such things as this; but when it bonks me enough time, it can even get through this thick head.

  2. Here are some artists that I have found who do more diverse representations that you might like. My favorite so far is the work of Father Jim Hasse, who has unfortunately passed away. He had a collection featured at University of Dayton called “Dark and Beautiful”. Here is the link: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/gallery/darkandbeautiful.html

    The art of Ansgar Holmsberg is also lovely: https://www.google.com/search?q=ansgar+holmberg&client=firefox-a&hs=i2J&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CCgQsARqFQoTCMid0JKIx8cCFcEQkgodJyAMsw&biw=1440&bih=797

    Here is the art of He Qi: https://www.google.com/search?q=he+qi&client=firefox-a&hs=nke&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMI-9jt5IjHxwIViTqSCh3v5QwJ&biw=1440&bih=797

    Then finally, there is a blog containing a lot of Christian art called mattstone.blogs.com

    I agree; there isn’t much diversity represented in mainstream culture. However, it does exist, and we are all responsible to find examples of it to share with others. I hope you enjoy these links. 🙂

    Peace, Carrie

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