Race: does the word ‘black’ have a negative connotation ?

There exist a lot of color symbolisms, such as black plague and white knight.

It is understandable why white people might associate all of the positive meanings usually attributed to white values in these symbolisms with their own skin color – but I hope that white people ( including myself ) are smart enough to realize that color metaphors do not translate into race credibilities.

Likewise, it is understandable why black people might develop a negative color complex as a consequence of all of the negative meanings attributed to black values in these symbolisms.

My question: are we able to get past the color metaphors?


As an example that the many color symbolisms do not translate correctly into race credibility, think about soul … what is soul? Whatever it is, it is positive – white – and it seems to me that black people have a lot more of it than white people, who are generally repressed, which is negative – black.

Thus, according to this loose example, black people are white and white people are black.


9 responses

  1. I grew up with watching a Black Cat to not cross my path as bad luck would ensue.
    I also am more intimidated by the blackness/darkness of nighttime for being attacked/robbed.
    Who doesn’t panic during a blackout (power outage)?
    We are programmed to get fear from our role model parents, then our peer group who are also programmed by theirs, teachers as well in schools. Many items are bad for black BUT if you are in the black financially, you are GOOD to GO because being in the Red means overdrawn in your bank accounts, in deep debt, etc. And the best dressed person is a black tie -tuxedo event. We have to be taught BOTH sides of any color, huh? Gwenne says

  2. The definitions associated with the word black are NOT metaphors. It does not refer to the color of my skin nor the ethnicity of my family. I am tan. My wife is brown. No human on this earth has black skin. Our ancestors did not come from a country called black. Black is the absence of light and color. We are neither without light or color.

    I find it offensive to be called the N word – especially by those of my own race. But even this word is historically more accurate than black. Colored is much more accurate than the word black.

    We fought and continue to fight and work hard to have equality among races BUT at the same time we chose to define ourselves using a word that couldn’t be any more different. Black and White are as separate as the East is from the West, as different as Up is from Down.

    We are ALL colored. Until we come to realize this AND confess this fact with our words, there will continue to be a separation between black and white.

    Speaking for myself, I do not respond to people who call me black. On forms I check African-American OR write-in Colored. In 1863 even Frederick Douglas referred to our race as colored in his editorial called Men of Color To Arms.

  3. Theo Rushin and Me, I have been on this for so long. I am what some call white though I am far from the white they claim. And why would someone want to be associated with a word that relates to so much negativism. I am more offended by people wanting to be called black when as you say their skin tones are of the brown family. I carry an olive tone from my Italian and Native American heritage. When someone calls me white,I ask where do they see white other than my teeth. You are correct when you state that we all are colored. I grew up in a neighborhood where the word nigger was frowned upon by everyone there. Mostly socalled whites and coloreds. The true coloreds were proud to be called colored. They said it lifted them above the rest that did not try to do better in life. And they called those folks “Negro’s”. We all are people of color. It’s time for race baiters to take a rest.

  4. I agree that the word or color “black” has a negative, less than, not as good as white connotation and the word or color “white” has a positive, pure or superior connotation in our society. It is no wonder that many Black or African-Americans tend to believe they are inferior and Whites tend to believe they are superior. We must remember that there was a time when Blacks were slaves and Whites were their masters. We must also remember there was a time when we lived in “Separate and Unequal Societies – One Black and One White (Jim Crow)!” I think those Whites who are racists and White Supremacists had and are still having much to do with the inequities among Blacks in our society today. Ofcourse, we Blacks or African-Americans contribute to many of our own problems, too. But, I believe racism, individual and institutional, is the cullprit for many of the inequities we are experiencing in our country today. i.e. police brutality to include policing practices, mass incarceration, poverty, sub-standard housing, poor educational systems, lack of opportunity for higher education, inadequate health care, unemployment, crime and violence, etc. The questions now are (1) How do we resolve it? (2) Do we as a nation desire to resolve it? and (3) Can it be resolved? Surely, I believe it can be resolved but not without creating problems in the other parts of our systems. It appears to me that we are caught between a “rock and a hard place!” Do we want to rob Peter to pay Paul? Finally, there was a time when we called impoverished and underprivileged neighborhoods slums and ghettos but, just recently I heard them coined as “urban plantations!” I suggest we (those of us who are earnestly concerned, all ethnicities and the like) get busy finding solutions for our current predicament!

  5. Rev Dr Bowles – You make some very good points. Thank you! However I have to ask, “why do we have such a short memory span”. We wonder why there is so much inequality and injustice in America. So much of our focus is on “Black” and “White”. What about “Red” – the native Americans tribes that were wiped out in our country and now regelated to “reservations” across the U.S. I am part Native American – not “Red Skin” or “Indian”. And the separation doesn’t stop there. There exists a separation (not as prominent though) between darker colored americans and lighter colored americans within the same race. I know because I experienced it all during my school years. So before we talk solving inequality and injustice between races, we should first address the same WITHIN our race.

    Every race throughout history has been a slave to another. We, the “African American” or “Colored” race have no exclusivity in this matter. So am I saying that we should accept the situation and “move on”. No! We need to address the problem at its root instead of patching things up with “band-aid solutions”. The problem with “band-aid solutions” is that although it may appear to solve the issue at had, the disease inside will find another way to manifest itself. We need to change how we all think about and refer to each other! This “black/white” categorization that our society has accepted is as silly as the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”. Look it up if you are not familiar with it. Two sets of people were at war with each other because one group was white on the left side and black on the right side. The other group was the opposite.

    Racism is just a symptom of the fear and sometimes we humans have for others who look, behave, and act differently from what we perceive to be normal. Injustice and inequality is a result of that fear. Address the fear, address the “heart” of the matter and we will finally be moving towards resolution. Work to cure the disease and the body will start to heal.

  6. Hello Mr. Rushin. Thank you for your response. I agree with you wholeheartedly. As you say, “Band-aid solutions may appear to solve the issue at hand, the disease inside will find another way to manifest itself.” This is why I say, if we were to find a sollution to the race problem, which I really have my doubts that we will, because inevitably it will cause other, perhaps, even more severe problems. As systems theory says, when one changes one part of the system it will, without a doubt, cause problems in other parts of the system. I believe, like you, that since this is a “heart issue” we are wrestling with, a disease that will not respond properly and satisfactorily to human remedies, as evidenced by the ever present “evil” of this “fear” you so astutely and perspicuously identified, a radical intervention must occur to bring about the desired change. When I say “radical change”, I am not advocating violence but rather an other worldly change. Fear as I understand it can be a learned behavior or it can be spiritually induced. It has the power to actually destroy ones self and/or others! History has proven this to be true. It is, as you alluded to, more than a Black/White issue! I do not mean to imply that we should discontinue our search for further solutions to our race challenges. God knows that many of us, to include our children and grandchildren, are experiencing lives that many of us thought would never be possible! What we call the “American Dream” is, now, afforded to “all” and many who were once excluded are now taking advantage of this great opportunity and blessing which, in very large part, comes from the shedding of blood and loss of lives, to achieve these geeat rights, benefits and privileges. Indeed, many of us from all walks of life have come from a mighty, mighty long way! However, as we are well aware we still have a mighty, mighty long way to go! I am looking forward to hearing from you and others again.

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