Black is my favorite color. I know, I know…it’s odd. But it really is. Aside from the fact that I think I look great in the color, I have some relatively new found ideals regarding this color.
So, according to the historically euro-centric popular opinion, I am a black person. Now, you and I both know that the color of my skin is actually on the brown side, but let’s interrogate this coloring system.
After having been kidnapped from their homeland and forced, by threat of death, to come to a stolen land, white “Americans” designated my African ancestors as black. It was a demeaning and derogatory term. It was used to indicate to other whites that those who have been kissed by the sun, those who have been dipped in darker shades of glory, were bad, evil, demonic even. Black was understood as something dirty and bad. And because we weren’t like them, we must have been bad.
Not only was this color used to indicate a particular verbal rhetoric to white people about persons of African descent, but it was also used to instill within those beautiful brown peoples a particular understanding of self. We were supposed to think of ourselves as bad. We were supposed to think that our skin made us dirty and evil. Why? Because white represented everything pure and good? Right?
This skewed, evil distortion of brown skinned identity has done much damage throughout history. And I must say that it is easy to understand why those among us in the “black community” do not ascribe to this harmful and oppressive designation.
Yet, I would like to offer what Dr. Derek S. Hicks would call a curative recalibration of the term “black.”
Throughout history, black folks have had to reclaim and recalibrate so much about who we are understood to be. In the words of the great philosopher Sean Carter, black folks have been screaming, “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is…!!!” as a declaration – a mantra.
Accordingly, mantras like, “I’m black and I’m proud” and “Black Power!” have resounded throughout our history here in America as an attempt at recalibrating this historically offensive and oppressive designation. Many, and not all, black folks have adopted this term as a way of reclaiming their identities and presenting to the world what WE say it means to be black. Black began to become something worth being proud of. And I cannot help but hear my churchy folk saying, “what the devil meant for evil, God turned it around for my good!” And with that said…
I am black.
Let me say it again for the racist whites in the back…
I AM BLACK!
And I am proud of my blackness.
And here’s the reason why…
So, it is clear that in the American context, the term black has been used destructively. However, that is not the case in other cultures. In particular, I will lift a conversation on the color black as understood in ancient Egyptian culture.
In Egypt, there are two types of land – the red land and the black land. The red land is how Egypt is depicted in popular culture. It is the sandy land where the pyramids stand tall. And that is beautiful. Yet, that is not a holistic depiction of the land of Egypt. Because there is also what is called the black land.
The black land is the land closest to the Nile River. It is the land where the vegetation grows. It is the fertile land. It is the productive land. It is the land that gives life to those who would come near. This is the black land.
Here, black is associated with productivity and growth. It is understood as being the beautiful womb through which life is born. Here, black is understood as beautiful. And I think that if peoples within the continent of our people’s native homeland can understand this color as being life giving and beautiful, then we should adopt the same attitude.
While my skin is not literally black, this terminology has clung to our communities in an inescapable way. So, if we cannot kill the narrative, why not recalibrate and reclaim it?
Black isn’t evil.
Black is beautiful and life giving.