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Color Confusion: Examining Why Color Assignments and Skin Pigments are Different

Black people have been in a perpetual argument for decades with some white scholars and others over their virtual theft of Africa, their claim of its Northern African regions and particularly Egypt as “white.” In fact, there are many Black Americans today who think that the enslaved from Africa to America literally came from Egypt itself. Indeed Egypt or its other name, Kemet and Khemet, whose literal meaning is “black land,”[1] with its kings and queens in antiquity, have come to mean the epitome of Blackness and supreme birthright among Africa’s formerly enslaved American descendants, evoking dreams of Africa in all its splendor, Africa’s wealth of stolen resources and the dissection of its lands and territory in service to white supremacy. And why not? Egypt is African and the pigments of its people from before Christ were nonwhite, as that description of pigmentation can be and is described today, but debates and arguments will continue to rage as long as white people claim Egypt and certain other Northern African and Middle Eastern regions are white, despite the overarching pigmentation of its people.

In a nation and indeed a world so fixated on whether pigmentation represents white or black, one could drive himself, herself of themselves insane trying to find any rationality between pigmentation and the assignment of these colors with regard to so-called actual skin color. In my book, White Supremacy and the Post-Racial Colorblind Era, I explained:

“there are several references available to describe the Races of humans, even articles describing the differ­ences between Race and Color. It all sounds very scientific and at this point in history, rather matter of fact. Why? Because it is understood that Races exist, even as they are not supposed to. The term, however, exists and has been successfully applied to all humanity. It is understood that there are colors within the Races, and even within the Races, that the colors of skin can vary significantly. It is also evident that color alone is not an accurate measure­­ment for the Race of an individual. Although having no truly accurate measurement for Race has no con­sequence, it was determined long ago that the offspring of black and white parents were forever to be construed as Black, using the generations-old one drop-rule, and the Race of the mother.”[2]

For example, Archie, the offspring of Megan and Prince Harry of Britain, will always be considered Black, despite the fact that he has the same pigmentation as his father. His mother, Megan, as lightly pigmented as Harry, is also considered Black because of her mother’s Race as well.

What people need to understand is that White and Black are "assignments of color." They are simply positions applied to the bodies of humans from generations ago to categorize humanity under a formula for light and dark, good and evil, thousands of years in the making. This is the key is understanding color assignment and association of value within the ideology of white supremacy, since the colors black and white were literally "assigned" to human bodies and are continually assigned, whether pigmentation dictates or not.

For an example of assignment of color and value outside of the realm of white supremacy and Race, think Red State and Blue State. Is Arizona actually the color red? No. Is California actually the color blue? No, but these colors were assigned to the states to distinguish right or left ideologies, to position them politically as Republican or Democrat, and even as white offense or black defense, used either as dog whistles for overt white supremacists and racists, or euphemisms for the comfort of white people in general.

Now consider, is your skin actually white? Is your skin actually black? No. But the assignment of these two colors are responsible for the creation of an entire hierarchy of supreme sovereignty of white and the subordination and inferiority of black.

Consider for a moment that thousands of years ago, the colors black and white, terms which connote everything we have come to understand as good and evil, brilliant and morose, existed in terms of their values long before they were assigned to the bodies of humanity.

These colors were used because of their inherent positive and negative values and because they were convenient to distinguish humanity in such terms during the Enslavement to create the ideology of superiority, inferiority and a caste structure specific to the enslaved on the basis of colors already fixed in terms of their superior and inferior attributes.

Now, for an even better understanding of how the assignment of color is used in the U.S. post Enslavement and for purposes of immigration, take these Northern African and Middle Eastern countries for example. People from these regions are considered "white." No matter how dark the skin, they are considered white people in the United States. It is only when a darker complexion hits the United States as a body does scrutiny begin unless the person can prove citizenship within these regions. This is because the United States through its census[3] dictates "assignment" of the color white for human beings in much the same way that the colors red and blue are now assigned to the individual states within the nation today.

This has also created the color confusion we are in today, and why dark skinned people from these regions may still be treated unfairly, discriminated against, mistreated or violated in some way in America. The preponderance of ordinary white people in this country do not understand the real nature of white and black color assignment or why these particular colors were assigned and applied within the ideology of white supremacy in the first place. They only understand the most rudimentary view of Race as color and its connotations of dark and light, black and white. Because of that, they lean into the negative behaviors they have been accustomed to for generations since the first wealthy gentry began to encourage animosity against Black people back in the early years of the colonies and the first laws were enacted eliminating the right of Black people to defend themselves against the newly assigned “white” colored people.

Dig deeply into the value of the black/white binary outside of the ideology of white supremacy and the answer will be clear why the colors were eventually assigned to the bodies of humanity and why it is almost impossible to separate the assignment from its value today.

Imagine having to take all you have learned and been conditioned about the colors black and white and the value associated with them over thousands of years and virtually having to wipe them away; changing everything you’ve ever thought about the colors black and white, and the value associated with them, especially having nothing to do with an association with skin.

If you do not believe removing the literal color assignment of white and black was actually attempted, it was, and that was what became the Post-Racial Color Blind era, when the term white literally disappeared from the lexicon and was replaced with the terms, “normal, neutral, natural” and “mainstream.” For over 50 years, the black/white binary was hidden by euphemisms, dog whistles, and all those behaviors and terms that were considered being “politically correct.” And of course, it didn’t work, which is why we find ourselves where we are today, confused and consistently mislead by forces that would just as soon keep you that way.

White Supremacy dictates the assignment of the black/white binary. The only reason why skin was used to imply its value was because skin was the most expedient, especially in the newly formed colonies where the threat of continued uprising among the poor class caste was realized after Bacon’s Rebellion. It is important to recognize how color confusion is manifested, and to find the keys to unlocking the confusion. There are clues in understanding the difference between color assignment and pigmentation in this country. These clues are inside of the words "assignment," "value," and “whiteness as a state of being.” Begin to ask yourself critical questions about each and you will find discernment and understanding within them.


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