In order to consider carefully the essence of my essays, you must put on your “thinking caps,” and your “lenses,” because the subjects in my essays usually require deep thought and reflection.
This is one of them, so put on your thinking caps and your lenses and get ready to think deeply and considerably. We are about to go in for a deep dive.
What is the value in the color of the word Black? Of White? In the United States, for certain, color is a most valuable tool for identification, codification, differentiation and definition of just about everything, including the skin of human beings. But the question of the value these words hold within the context of race, racism, racialized words and white supremacy, or beyond its broadness of contexts outside of these subjects has probably not been considered to a degree past the obviousness of color itself.
We know that most of the problems of "color" among Black people themselves are caused by generations of indoctrination and shame based on the ideology of what is known as "colorism" or the comparison of value as a human based on the skin color. This is a DIRECT effect of living within a racist system of oppression and subjugation fostered by the ideology of white supremacy. Make no mistake.
Black people have been trying to live gracefully with the association and stigma, the negativity and attachment of the word, “Black,” ever since it was assigned to the first group of Black people brought over on the slave ships and the corresponding white association of the wealthy colonist landowners who used it to separate and divide Black enslaved from white indentured servant and white poor.
Of course, white supremacy demands the use of color as a descriptor, identifier and separator of humans. It is how they structured the apportionment of economic life among people who identify as white and who accepted the attachment to and embraced the "state of being white people long ago. It is how nonwhite people, and descendants of the Enslavement in particular, are apportioned limited opportunity or denied opportunity within the system of racism in all institutions including the nation's economic structure. The fact that the "color of the word" *black* was attached to the skins of humans to identify them and differentiate them as deserving oppression is no coincidence. Even the root definition of the word, "Negro," is Spanish for the color Black; a term for dark skinned people having been borne out of Spain's historical hatred of the Moors and brought to the Americas and eventually to be twisted into the words, "nigger and niggra" by white people not able to pronounce it correctly.
There was a deeper damage caused by the attachment of the word black to the bodies of African people. Most people do not associate this deeper damage caused by definitions and connotations associated with the color black because those meanings have no associative attachment to skin; not consciously. Many do not consider the fact that negativity in the word stretches back much farther than to the skins of a whole group of oppressed people. Therefore, no one does the math, so to speak. They don’t consider the value of the color of the word “Black” in a racist nation like the U.S. or the world at large.
When we think of White Supremacy or white superiority today, we usually associate it with the skin-based ideology of power over any person or thing Black or nonwhite. This association while true, is the easiest and most simplistic view of white supremacy. However, white supremacy has a more insidious set of contexts from which it gleans its power other than through the use of the color of skin as a tool, and this was purposeful.
All we have to do is think of the everyday aspects of what we consider “normal” and “natural” in American culture. Many people do not even get the fact that white supremacy goes well beyond any notions of skin-based superiority because it is so pervasive in every day, "normal" thinking. Even the word "normal" is rooted in white supremacy without anyone even realizing it. If we take ourselves outside of the racialized circumstances in which we live based on skin color and take a look at the world through a "normal lens," we will find examples everywhere.
Let’s begin by examining the meanings of black and in terms of its context and connotations. Of course, we all know the definitions of the word, black. We also know how history has painted its broad brush all over them, rendering its synonyms some of the worst expressions imaginable. Go to any thesaurus and you will find words like, dark, dusky, sooty, dirty, dingy, sad, depressing, somber, doleful, mournful, disastrous, calamitous, sinful, inhuman, fiendish, devilish, infernal, monstrous, atrocious, horrible, livid, murky, nefarious, treacherous, disgraceful, traitorous, and villainous. Still more are, threatening, malevolent, menacing, angry, wicked, hostile, resentful, sullen, unclean, grubby, impure, depressing, and many, many more. The antonyms or opposites are, “good, hopeful, clean, happy and optimistic.”
The antithesis of the word black is white. By stark contrast, white is characterized as “a color without hue at one extreme end of the scale of grays, opposite to black. A hue completely desaturated by admixture with white, the highest value possible." This says that "white is the achievement of the highest value possible." Its antonyms are oddly enough, “biased, cloudy, dark, darkened, dim, flushed, gloomy, obscure, partial, prejudiced, and dirty.” Equally odd, is the absence of synonyms that express the full dimensions of white to the degree and scope of the expressions which are provided for the word black. This is not by chance.
All one needs to do, is think; think about the institutions upon which this nation was and continues to be founded, in all the areas of human activity and the word white within all of those contexts. The institution of Religion, for example, offers white to mean, pure, light, chaste, virginal. It connotes, power, heavenly bodies, goodness, cleanliness and godliness. We have all heard the sayings, “pure as the driven snow,” and white Christmas. These are but a couple of instances where white and its synonyms are baked into the crust of the American lexicon. There are so many more descriptive variations of black than white, such that many are steeped into the psyche of normality so as to cast within them a natural, plausible deniability as to their association with white superiority from a skin-based perspective.
For example, the popular term, “black sheep,” so common that it is used by both white and Black people today, is characterized as, “a member of a family or group who is regarded as a disgrace to them,” as in "the black sheep of the family.” White people will often rationalize this metaphor for their most egregious family members, of which there is usually only one per family, and of course, for them, there is no racialized connotation or context associated with its use.
There doesn’t need to be a skin-based connotation associated with its use to be considered “a disgrace,” because it transcends any skin-based reference or ideology. What does this mean?
It means the essence of white superiority which drives the consciousness of this nation goes far beyond the ideology which gave rise to the desire of the colonial powers to use the word Black with its associated synonyms to identify and stigmatize an entire body of people in order to enslave and then for their descendants to continue as a way of denigrating and subjugating the descendants of the Enslavement. It means white supremacy is inside of everything that is considered clean, wholesome, pure, happy and optimistic and everything that is considered dark, dusky, sooty, dirty, dingy, sad, depressing, somber, doleful, mournful, disastrous, calamitous, sinful, inhuman, fiendish, devilish, infernal, monstrous, atrocious, horrible livid, murky, nefarious, treacherous, disgraceful, traitorous, and villainous, malevolent, menacing, angry, wicked, hostile, resentful, sullen, unclean, grubby, impure and depressing is inside of Black. Think about the ramifications of that and how normal and natural it is when considered outside of race and racism.
Imagine this attachment of Black with all its negativity outside of what would be known as race and racial differences. Now attach the skins of an entire body of people to these words based on the perception of skin colors, of white and black. The value of the word black when used to attach to a body of people in order to dehumanize and subjugate becomes invaluable to those for whom it is a necessary part of maintaining their own superiority using the value of the word white. Now you should have a much better understanding of what white superiority is really about and how destructive and pervasive it truly is.
Does this mean Black and white people should stop using these words to identify ourselves? Not until the power mechanisms of white supremacy and superiority are dismantled forever. Until then, Black people will continue to make the best of it and create our own meanings for the color Black.