This opinion post is in reaction to a Tech Insider post I viewed on Facebook (ttps://www.facebook.com/techinsider/videos/vb.352751268256569/481949642003397/?type=2&theater)
Racism is an insidious machination. A web of fabricated myths carefully woven together over time to mask the insecurities and frailties of a collective psyche by manufacturing the supposed shortcomings and failings of others. At its very core of this radiant web is a litany of lies tightly spun together—strands designed to deflect logic and hide the truth. These threads masquerade as the very thing they are not—hence down is actually up, and black in any form is sinister and to be mistrusted.
Racism, like any destructive construct girded on hate, needs to be fed in order for it to survive, and, like any parasite, racism often feeds on its human hosts with them being none the wiser. A tapeworm doesn’t have to be acknowledged by its host to exist. In fact, as a tapeworm, if it were able to think on any level, it would likely prefer not to be acknowledged. To be ignored. Racism is no different. Humanity is the host body. While many of us know racism exists on some level, and that it moves in, around, and between us, many of us aren’t concerned with stopping the parasite. So it grows.
One of the most basic ways racism continues to fester and flourish, is it needs to find ways to substantiate its very existence. So, even those who don’t view themselves as racist, or have any racist leanings and inclinations can still pass along racist subtext without being any wiser. How something is defined often displays a certain insecurity, false bravado, or fear, depending upon how it is defined and by whom. The need to define something is a curious fixation of peoples of European descent. Phrenology was a false science created to substantiate the institution of racism through the supposed mental inferiority of African peoples, thereby justifying their mistreatment and subsequently absolving their “masters” from any guilt their actions might induce through the support and enforcement of slavery and its brutal tactics. One can look at the definitions for the color black and the non-color white for one of the starkest examples of this very truth.
First, the definition for “Black” (via Merriam-Webster Online):
- 1a: of the color blackb (1) : very dark in color <his face was black with rage> (2) : having a very deep or low register <a bass with a black voice> (3) : heavy, serious <the play was a black intrigue>
- 2a: having dark skin, hair, and eyes : swarthy <the black Irish>b (1) often capitalized : of or relating to any of various population groups having dark pigmentation of the skin <black Americans> (2) : of or relating to the African-American people or their culture <black literature> <a black college> <black pride> <black studies> (3): typical or representative of the most readily perceived characteristics of black culture<trying to sound black> <tried to play blacker jazz>
- 3: dressed in black
- 4: dirty, soiled <hands black with grime>
- 5a: characterized by the absence of light <a black night>b : reflecting or transmitting little or no light <black water>c : served without milk or cream <black coffee>
- 6a: thoroughly sinister or evil : wicked <a black deed>b : indicative of condemnation or discredit <got a black mark for being late>
- 7: connected with or invoking the supernatural and especially the devil <black magic>
- 8a: very sad, gloomy, or calamitous <black despair>b : marked by the occurrence of disaster <black Friday>
- 9: characterized by hostility or angry discontent : sullen <black resentment filled his heart>
- 10chiefly British: subject to boycott by trade-union members as employing or favoring nonunion workers or as operating under conditions considered unfair by the trade union
- 11aof propaganda: conducted so as to appear to originate within an enemy country and designed to weaken enemy moraleb : characterized by or connected with the use of black propaganda <black radio>
- 12: characterized by grim, distorted, or grotesque satire<black humor>
- 13: of or relating to covert intelligence operations<black government programs>
Now the definition for “White” (via Merriam-Webster Online):
- 1a: free from colorb : of the color of new snow or milk; specifically : of the color whitec : light or pallid in color <white hair> <lips white with fear>d : lustrous pale gray : silvery; also : made of silver
- 2a: being a member of a group or race characterized by light pigmentation of the skinb : of, relating to, characteristic of, or consisting of white people or their culturec[from the former stereotypical association of good character with northern European descent]: marked by upright fairness <that’s mighty white of you>
- 3: free from spot or blemish: asa (1) : free from moral impurity : innocent (2) : marked by the wearing of white by the woman as a symbol of purity <a white wedding>b : unmarked by writing or printingc : not intended to cause harm <a white lie> <white magic>d : favorable, fortunate <one of the white days of his life — Sir Walter Scott>
- 4a: wearing or habited in whiteb : marked by the presence of snow : snowy <a white Christmas>
- 5a: heated to the point of whitenessb : notably ardent : passionate <white fury>
- 6a: conservative or reactionary in political outlook and actionb : instigated or carried out by reactionary forces as a counterrevolutionary measure <a white terror>
- 7: of, relating to, or constituting a musical tone quality characterized by a controlled pure sound, a lack of warmth and color, and a lack of resonance
- 8: consisting of a wide range of frequencies —used of light, sound, and electromagnetic radiation
Curious how 4—9 in the definition of black struck a “sinister” tone, while the definition of white was largely benign, or, “free from spot or blemish.” Quite simply, to define something is to establish its boundaries–to own it by limiting its possibilities. To define something, especially something or someone you have little to know knowledge of or authority over, can be catastrophically damaging to that which is being defined in myriad ways. Once something has been defined and the definition has been proliferated to a consenting populous, the undefined or unconsidered possibility of what could rise out of this predefined entity ceases to exist.
This is how an enslaved African wo/man could be abducted from their home and transformed into a subhuman object. Because these Africans were not collectively or individually viewed as human beings by a group of people smart enough to know the difference, it made it permissible to act out unspeakable atrocities upon several groups of “minorities” (as in they are minor) by a supposedly God-fearing people over the course of centuries. There is an unspoken arrogance in this manner of thinking, and this attitude is extremely divisive, hateful, and dangerous. It’s an attitude that has bled into every aspect of our culture, even today, and, if you haven’t noticed, has been used to push the narrative that substantiates ridiculous definitions and stereotypes like the ones defined above.
So, while I found this video interesting in many regards, I also found it to be a bit annoying in the sense that it ultimately implied that something as basic as a color had no value or merit until western civilization decided to grant it value and merit. The earliest western influence that was referenced in this video was Homer, a man estimated to have lived between 1074 and 800 B.C.E. Apparently, Homer’s theorized inability to interpret the color blue had more weight than the Egyptians who lived thousands of years before him. That the Egyptians were actually painting with the color blue still begged the question of whether or not they truly knew what it was, as if to suggest they arbitrarily picked a pigment that didn’t register to their eyes, but still thought it was nice enough to paint with. The Egyptians. A civilization so advanced, there are things they built and designed that we are still unable o replicate or fully understand (which is often why they are not depicted as people of color in TV/Movies and/or why aliens must have somehow been involved).
This is a powerful technique often used in creating a palatable narrative in today’s media, where the truth can be fashioned out of introducing an idea and supporting it with other ideas that could be truthful, subsequently substantiating the original idea as truth when it doesn’t have any merit of its own. An age-old ploy that explicitly makes one point or a series of points, while implicitly suggesting another point or series of points. A ploy that, in order to promote something or someone, has to also diminish something or someone else.
This is the type of narrative that is fabricated in part with the kind of logic that enables millions of people to believe that Christopher Columbus “discovered” a land–that just so happened to be populated with millions of civilized indigenous peoples (of color). Simply ignore that they were civilized, already there, and that they taught your ancestors how to survive in the new world (we all know how this kindness was repaid).
This type of narrative is also in part what tries to shout down the idea of black is beautiful and decries President Obama’s encouragement of a group of black/African-American Howard University graduates to embrace their blackness,
yet has no quarrel with the concept of depicting individuals in the bible as white, despite their biblical characterizations and ethnic names, and motivates individuals to change the names of some of those biblical characters. and commissions artistic renderings of these newly redefined characters as European in order to make the narrative more palatable. In Hitler’s regime this was called propaganda.
This brand of logic insists that even in the year 2016, the gods that the Egyptians worshipped were of European descent, despite the very hieroglyphics used to depict those same deities saying otherwise. This is the insecurity that will not allow a fantasy-based movie to have a Chinese god of thunder portrayed by anyone other than a white male. This unwillingness to allow something to be relevant, valid, or beautiful without the consent of an approving western-leaning authority is the reason why so many people got riled up when Hannibal was accurately portrayed as a man of color on the History channel—leaving one man to argue that Hannibal was Phoenician, apparently unaware that the Phoenicians were indeed peoples of color.
In short, one man’s (Homer’s) or civilizations theorized inability or unwillingness to recognize or understand something doesn’t make that unrecognized thing insignificant, or ugly, or worse, nonexistent. To not acknowledge the Egyptians ability to recognize something as simple as a color, and cast it off as possible coincidence may seem minor to some, but it’s a part of a much larger issue.
This thinking is what causes some children too think they’re not pretty or handsome because their skin is too dark, or entire groups of people to disavow their African ancestry. This thinking is what tells all parties to be leery of people with my skin color because their skin is dirty, ugly, and not to be trusted. That their hair is bad. They are untrustworthy. To be feared. This thinking is broadcast, and picked up by news outlets that are supposed to be purveyors of truth. It’s blared in high definition for entertainment and the evening news. It is incessant. So when someone brown does something bad, it isn’t unexpected. When something bad happens to someone brown, it isn’t viewed as shameful. There is no beauty or value in brown. That is the subtle narrative.
I am not trying to imply in any way that the video was racist in some fashion, or that I believed it had racist intent. Not at all. I appreciated the video, but I could not ignore what happens to be a very common thread in the tapestry of the collective western psyche. Subtle ways to validate ones own beauty and intelligence while doing it at the expense of a seemingly primitive tribe was slightly off-putting to me. Again, I do not think this video was racist. I believe it was made in earnest to support an interesting perspective, all while being skewed to subconsciously uphold another belief/thought system. I could be way off base here. Perhaps I stretched this too far or thin–tried to make a connection where there wasn’t one. This is possible too.
I had to repeatedly ask myself this very question while I watched a narrative I’ve seen more times than I care to count in my few years on this spinning blue ball. And as the most beautiful blues danced across my screen, towards the end of the video montage I was struck by the most beautifully blue eyes just before the video ended. Maybe I’m imagining it all. Or maybe, maybe I see something deeper in the color blue. What I do know is that words are powerful. How you use them is powerful. Words are important because they are meant to define everything we do and do not understand in this scary thing called life. Words are powerful because they are power. Perhaps it’s time that we all start reading between the lines.