Nationality: Why You Need to Stop Thinking of People in Terms of Color

Imagine this simple scene:
You have a child at school reading stories about the “Black Knight”, and the “Black Death” and the “Black Plague”. And then the child thinks, “Oh, and I’m a black child”…

Why are people are so wedded to the term “black”?
By definition “Black” deludes to slavery, wickedness and death

And the justification for it is, “Well, it’s because the European made it negative.”

It’s the Europeans word, it was negative before it was applied to African people. It’s like they’re getting it backwards.

It isn’t that Europeans said “We’re gonna make this word “black” negative in order to accommodate our desire to devalue African people, or dark complexioned Asian people, or dark complexioned Native Americans.”

That’s not how it worked.

Something is terribly wrong here.

In this post, Dr. Jose Pimienta Bey untangles a mass of falsehoods, exposing the psychological, social and legal effects of identifying as “Negro”, “Black”, “Colored”, etc.

Dr. Na’im Akbar, the prominent African-American psychologists, often talks about one of our issues is that people of the African world are very reactive rather than proactive.

Which means that if this individual is calling himself white, we’re gonna react and call ourselves “black” because we’re the opposite.

Not really understanding that we’re not exactly taking a step in the right direction. Because now given all the linguistic and cultural baggage of “black” you are trying to push an elephant uphill on rollerskates.

You’re trying to turn a negative into a positive when there’s a clean pure stream nearby to draw from.

Brown and Pink People?

There’s a famous scene in the movie “Cry Freedom” about the life of Steve Biko starring Denzel Washington:

Steve Biko was in court. He’s charged with basically being seen as a threat to the apartheid system, and he was banned. So he’s in court talking to the Boer British judge, and the judge said to him, “Why call yourselves “black”? I mean you people are more brown and black?”

And Biko says “Why do you call yourselves white, you people are more pink than white?”

And the judge says, “Precisely”.

But there’s no deeper unpacking of what just occurred, and it raises an important question about systems of oppression.

More specifically English-speaking Europeans because the term “white” is an English term.

When you know why they chose the term, then you know what they sought to gain by it.

When you also see that they leveled the term “black” against us — Asiatics, Africans — then you know what they sought to gain by imposing that on us.

But why the need to fixate on black?

The Implied Biases of the Term “Black”

There’s the work of a Harvard psychologist of East Indian ancestry by the name of Dr. Banaji. Her work looks at the Implicit Association Test, which is used by psychologists to look at implied biases that exist.

She recognizes what are often called “Mind bugs” which are culturally imposed perceptions of reality.

And the dominant perception of reality for those of us who speak the English language, when you say “black” or use “black”, its dominant use is negative — “Black Magic”, “Black Knight”, “Black Death” — and to try to overcome that is very difficult.

Now this is a Harvard faculty member, and prominent psychologist who’s pointing this out. And she calls them the “Mind Bugs”.

Reducing Yourself To A Pigment

Part of what people say is, “You need to get people to stop thinking of “black” as something negative.”

Okay that’s all right, but do you want to fight that battle? Or more importantly, should you be fighting that battle? Because you’re still reducing yourself to your pigment and you’re not looking at yourself in the context of a larger history.

When I looked at what Drew Ali conveyed, that you are not black, you are not negro, you are not colored. Just on a psychological level I can see the value.

I haven’t even gotten into what the value and importance of what he was saying by having folks reject negro, black, or colored, because that’s a whole other issue. I just got into the psychology of it.

That’s why people are confused

Why Do Police Shoot “Black” Men At The Rate That They Do?

What Banaji and others like Eric Haymanwho has talked about this issue of implicit bias and its roots not in the individual mind.

Part of the perspective on this is that many psychologists are now trying to figure out why is it that police tend to shoot quote-unquote “black” men at the rates that they do?

And is it because the individual police officer is overtly racist?

What some of the psychology is now suggesting is it may not be a sense of overt racism but rather the culturally imposed racism — what people used to call “National Character” — (how nations see themselves as a result of their particular histories and experiences).

Drew Ali, in terms of saying you’re not negro black and colored, was getting people out from under that weight of the negativity associated with blackness.

The same person who subscribes to “black” would not allow you to call him a “negro”.

But with all due respect, “negro” is the same thing as “black.” If I’m speaking Spanish, I’ll use the term “negro” which translated to english is still “black.”

The History Of “Moor”

Yet again Moor is a reference to a people, to an empire that covered a geographical location.

The Moorish Empire at one time was from the northwestern part of the Maghreb of North Africa, all the way down to the Senegal River and as far east as the border of Egypt. (That’s part of what we know is the recognized Moorish Empire in terms of international and diplomatic history and relations)

So we can say that covers a wide swath of the African continent that would include Africans of various hues.

People who would be darker in complexion and others who’d be lighter in complexion. The primary sources from Duarte, Portuguese travelers and Azurara and English sources all affirm that the term Moor was used for people of african ancestry.

Later the term “Blackamoor” is introduced but it’s part of the development of the kind of pigmentocracy that exists within the english language.

Doesn’t Moor mean Black?

If you translate Moor to simply mean black, knowing that black in the English language is affiliated with so much negativity long before it was ever referenced for people of African (or I dare say Indian ancestry) it’s a poor translation. A translation lacking any literary or etymological basis

Color over Culture?

Many people seem to be under the impression that “black” was only used to refer to people of Africa and that’s not true. “Black” was and in some cases is still used to refer to people of Asia by Europeans.

My first trip to England — I was talking to people from Indonesia, Pakistan and Cambodia and different parts of Southeast Asia. They were bringing to my attention how you can read the articles in the paper (in the early 90’s) that would talk about a “black” person doing something, usually affiliated with some criminal act unfortunately.

They were saying that the term “black” was used to encompass them [Indonesians, Pakistanis & Cambodians].

There was a debate between the younger generation of these saying, “We’ll use the word “black”. People in the Americas have a black pride movement, and you know there was black consciousness in South Africa”.

Then there were those who were elders who were averse to it. They didn’t like it because they said you don’t want to be encapsulated simply in a colour because now the emphasis is simply on your colour and not on your culture.

The young people saw the value of trying to use a new hip kind of terml. But the elders said, “No”, because what that is doing is reducing your value.

Because in the English language “black” is largely associated with a bunch of negativity

And just like Richard B. Moore said in his book from the 60s, The Name Negro, Its Origin and Evil Use (1960) he has made the same argument regarding why you shouldn’t use the term negro.

Well guess what? As stated before, Negro was Spanish for black. So folks went from Negro in espanol to black in English, but it’s still the same thing and I literally mean thing.

So defining yourself by an ethnicity or nationality clearly would make more sense.

“Blacks” Are Designated Racially Instead of Geographically

And when the late great political scientist Ali Mazrui, who was known for doing a series back in the 80;s called The Africans: A Triple Heritage. He was Kenyan born.

He actually said “black” people are the only group in the United States that is designated racially as opposed to geographically or nationally.

And this is part of the problem.

That’s why I ask people all the time, “why don’t we speak of Yellow Americans?”

If we’re going to use the color nomenclature, use it across the board. Just use it all the time…

There was an Irish Man. A German Man. And a “Black” Man.

Germans come from Germany. The Irish come from Ireland. Black what is that?

The value of not identifying with “black” is it compels you to be more specific in identifying culture, knowing your geographic origin — knowing your history. — Dr. Jose Pimienta Bey

Don’t worry you don’t need to memorize everything from this post.


Using the exact notes from this article would definitely elevate your own studies.

Peace and Love

Originally published at Amexem.

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