(originally published Dec 9th, 2021)
Words. Word words, words. Why do we use them? What do they mean? Who teaches us their meaning, and how does our brain attach those lessons to how we then perceive the world around us?
The words we use are one of the most powerful tools we have as humans to communicate how we perceive what we see around us, which then determines the actions we take towards the things around us. When we see poison we generally stay away from it (don’t get me started on alcohol). But if we chose, we could very easily change some of societies words to push past, and unlock the constant problems of slavery, oppression, polarization, separation, and “RACE-ism” (another very problematic word for another day) that we as human beings have in this 21st Century world.
We learned in Kindergarten about Colours. Then we learned about Black, and White. We learned that Black and White actually WEREN’T colours, but shades. And, we learned that Black and White made different shades of ….. Grey.
Kids learn things in parallel, and also in layers. Someone also (a teacher, our parents, our friends, our siblings) taught us that there were “White” and “Black” people in the world. Simultaneously , we were also taught us that Black and White were opposites. Different as day and night, good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong, trustworthy and sinister. But complete-polar-opposites. Existing side by side, but never TOGETHER. Relying on each other, but never unified. Why did they do that? Because someone taught THEM that. Was it always this way?
*Shouldn't this pic be full of a Black man, a white woman, and grey kids and grandkids?*
And hold on (record scratch) 🤔 So, wait, what? My siblings and I have a “Black” Dad, and a “white” Mom. I’m looking at my hands as I type - and it’s not adding up. Why-do-I-not-appear-to-be-Grey? I’ll tell you in a bit but I think you can see where this is going.
Picture me putting up my hand in a classroom. “Okay, so Black and White aren’t colours, but there’s Black and White PEOPLE.. and, people who aren’t White are …. People of COLOUR? But Black isn’t a Colour? And I’m.. am I Grey?” Picture my teacher not able to answer or follow my line of thought.
My skin is a beautiful shade of Brown (but I’m not East Indian – cuz that’s a “Brown” person.. right? “Yellow” is Asian (what?), “Red” is indigenous (double WHAT?), and so on. My skin gets lighter in the Winter, and darker in the Summer, so my human skin colour changes, but it’s always Brown. It’s the same as my two older brothers, and my younger sister, it’s the same as yours.
I’ve yet to see an interracial “Black/White” person with Grey skin. So it can’t just be me. Interestingly, we used to have family friends with a “White” Dad and “Black” Son, and a “Black” Mom and “White” Daughter (you can read that again).. which is a beautiful miracle of the genetic process of “DNA smashing”, but still no Grey. Nowhere. I don’t know any Grey People. It’s so odd.
I asked Wikipedia.
“Black people is a racialized classification of people, usually a political and skin color-based category for specific populations with a mid to dark brown complexion. Not all people considered "black" have dark skin; in certain countries, often in socially based systems of racial classification in the Western world, the term "black" is used to describe persons who are perceived as dark-skinned compared to other populations.”
Also from Wikipedia:
“White is a racialized classification of people and a skin color specifier, generally used for people of European origin; although the definition can vary depending on context, nationality, and point of view. In the US, this term has at times been expanded to encompass persons of South Asian, West Asian, and North African descent, persons who are often considered "non-white" in other contexts in the United States. It has also been alleged that, in the United States, people of Southern European and even Irish descent have been excluded from this category, although this idea has been contested. The usage of "white people" or a "white race" for a large group of mainly or exclusively European populations, defined by their