“There is so much contained in the language that we speak, if we only become conscious of it, we’ll see that the world we are living in is controlled through words. …if you understand the roots of language, you will then understand what we’re being told and … being fed.”
BREAKING BLACK: DEBUNKING COLOR IDENTITY
In my previous post, I concluded that its time to break into the origins of ‘Black’. Through this process, we can explore the REAL history of BLACK History, right here at the end of Black History Month. Lets continue the work to analyze our practices and see how far we have come.
I begin with the dictionary. I felt this would be the simplest beginning. I also began with a dose of personal responsibility in accepting my socially-constructed racist stereotypes as well. Using BLACK, WHITE, RED and YELLOW, I explored various definitions and discovered some patterns. I encourage anyone to refer to different versions of the dictionary to look and see if you find the same.
BLACK and WHITE, are two terms that have definitions in the American language that refer to a description of an individuals ethnic origin. They both state this in a matter of fact way. Take a look below:
BLACK (adj.) :
WHITE (adj.) :
When I looked up RED, there was no reference to an ethnic adjective. But what was interesting to me was the fact that YELLOW, did display a reference to an ethnic origin, however ‘OFFENSIVE’ is written above in parenthesis in both dictionaries I referenced.
YELLOW (adj.) :
In the American dictionary, BLACK, WHITE, and YELLOW are colors — or a range of spectrum of light, that are also used as an adjective to describe a racial identity. Furthermore, only when referring to an individual as YELLOW is it officially an offensive remark. And even though it is not evident in the dictionary, RED, is considered offensive as a racial description as well. Fast forward to modern day controversy, those individuals who fall under RED continue to fight against this racial classification by color. The Washington Red Skins, originally named in 1933, for having Native Americans as original players, underwent controversy and still continues today, due to the Native Americans feeling offended at such a publicly used derogatory name. This controversy still stands, as they continue to fight to remove RED, as a definition of their people.
Asian and Native Americans were also victims of oppression during the building days of America. They too were inhumanely treated and killed and yet do not hold onto the racial classification of color as BLACK and WHITE Americans do. The Native Americans and the Asian population are aware of the ignorance in using a color, or a spectrum of light to define their lineage. They are aware that the initial use of these terms were put in place to maintain a blanketed racist perception onto the whole of the people. White and Black people have allowed these terms to define lineage and have overlooked the fact that they are the only ones that continue to practice this. The fact that no other group of human beings accepts this practice is something to highlight in our journey of ‘Breaking Black’. The only group of human beings outside of White and Black who are referred to in color in our dictionary, but it is deemed as offensive are Asians. What did the Asian and the Native Americans do to take off the bind of color-classification in their history? And why is it that the two remaining groups, saturated in racial divide, continue to fight under and for a label that does not seem to define them at all, but instead perpetuates the cycle of divide.
As we are breaking BLACK down, many Black Americans hold strongly to their BLACK identity as a way to define who they are and where they come from. Many identify with Black as if it is their name. In America, Black culture is supposedly recreated through music, clothes, and speech to defy the oppression put on them by White Supremacy since the beginning of their days here on this land; going all the way back to the 14th century. The painful acknowledgement of the history of suppression against this group is what is held onto. It’s almost as if BLACK AMERICANS wear the scarlet ‘color’.
The next useful tool that I approached for word origins was the Online Etymology Dictionary. For those who don’t know, Etymology is the study of the origins of words and how their meanings have changed throughout history. I believe this is a useful tool, maybe even more so than the dictionary, because it truly goes back to the origins. Lets look at the Etymology of BLACK:
Here in the Etymology of ‘Black’ we see that its origins derive from Old English and the Proto-Germanic language, which basically is common German after reconstruction of the language. Even further, it is a descendant of Euro-Indo language after its own reconstruction. The term swart, apparently, was the actual word that translated to ‘black’. Its meanings correlate to “of dark, dark as night, or the skin color of people from the late 14th century”. Notice how BLACK, was not what the people called themselves; but what their oppressors called them. But we all knew this already right?
What is the Absolute Truth about Black?
‘BLACK’ has relevance to skin color, only through the eyes of the oppressor.
Another Absolute truth? BLACK is a color, or a measurement of spectrum of light. Whenever BLACK was used to define human beings, it was under an agenda that had no concern for their well-being. More absolute truth? Black Americans continue to hold onto the label that was placed on them by their original oppressors. In this case, using BLACK should be just as controversial as using the N-word.
If we could learn from our fellow Native American and Asian brothers and sisters, that in order to re-create lineage and culture we would initially need to let go of the oppression. We should consider the effect of using an oppressed name to continue to identify who we are. These terms that bind us to an un-ending identification towards our ancestral slavery. The question remains, Can ‘Black’ define who we are when it is a term used to erase who we are? I believe it needs to be brought into discussion.
We know the history; taken from our land, stripped of our culture, and then branded as BLACK in a socially constructed society that would keep us isolated from ever knowing where we came from. We’ve re-built a culture with intentions to recreate a foundation that generations could build upon, and yet we are still stuck in the same un-knowing because we have defaulted to using color as a definition of who we are and why we are. A color, that does not even accurately describe our actual shade of skin.
I believe there is responsibility to be had. Once we know origins of where we come from, outside of a politically arranged division, then we can decide to continue or not practicing color identification. Only then will we be free because we will be making choices based off of real knowledge. ‘Black’ is a term that has been unfortunately, ignorantly used, without considering or questioning its true purpose. It is very possible that the very reason we face racial divide still to this day, is because of the avoidance of our own responsibility in understanding these truths and origins.
The ‘Breaking Black’ series is ultimately a journey to synchronize to the vibration of the desires of all of whom seek divine sovereignty within this human experience. Within this series, we are are having deeper conversations about our perspective on racism and understanding the role we play in manifesting the cycle of continuous slavery.