(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 light skin, among other physical characteristics, and contrasting with "black", "red", "brown", "yellow", and other "colored" people or "persons of color", originated in the 17th century.”
And after a bit more reading:
“Contemporary anthropologists and other scientists, while recognizing the reality of biological variation between different human populations, regard the concept of a unified, distinguishable "white race" as socially constructed. As a group with several different potential boundaries, it is an example of a fuzzy concept……”
Aha! So, the term “White” … was interjected into the mindset of the commonfolk in the 17th century? Before the 1600’s, scholars can’t seem to find any reference to Europeans referring to themselves as white (or if they did, it was few and far between) .. and we still use it today. Really? WHY? It’s far from accurate. Was it maybe for some of the aforementioned reasons I’ve already discussed? Was it to keep population separated? Polarized? At odds? At war?
Or maybe, we’ve just been too lazy to realize how incredibly damning these words are to Human progress, and how important throwing them away is to the eventual goal of true and honest equality among all human beings.
But here is where I argue that, there are NO “White” or “Black” humans anywhere on Earth! That all Humans are part of the same colour, because we are all obviously the same species. That we are ALL different shades of Brown, be it light brown, medium brown or dark brown, we’re all one colour – brown. If future generations could wrap their head around this truth as I see it, we will make light-year like strides in the constant struggle to eliminate this concept of “race” and “racism” from our minds. Again, I understand the human need to classify and categorize, but if we all decided today to teach our children (if we must) that people are all brown, think of what that could do for human relations.
And stop, just stop, ridiculous. I know what some of you are thinking… ‘Durgh, what about Albino people, huh? They’re white. And did you see that one model that’s really popular right now, she looks pretty Black, what about that?”. Okay, for the ones in the back, yes, people with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin, or no melanin at all (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/albinism/). If you have ZERO melanin, I mean ZERO melanin in your skin. You are human, you are beautiful, you are valued, you matter. All humans have genetic “mutuation”’s we may or may not be aware of, and yours might make your skin white. There are countless genetic mutations, yours shows on your skin. And ya, there are some Africans that are preeeetty darn dark, but like my dark brown hair that so many call black, I would argue the darkest African is simply the darkest shade of brown there is.
Let me be clear. I’ve been reluctantly willing to let society label me as “Black” so they can fit me into their little boxes, and “describe” me. I’m aware of the Human brains need to “label” everything for simplicity. I’m aware I co-run a Company called “Black in the Maritimes”, that I’m called Black on the radio and in articles, that you’re likely reading this on the “Black in the Maritimes” website. I’ll embrace for now that I’m somehow “Black” with a White Mom (but is anyone Black? I’m getting to that). I’m aware of the problematic way I can say the “N-word” word at will, but if you’re a certain degree of “light”, due to certain cultural rules, YOU can’t. I understand that in many cases in my life I have been treated as such, whether for its benefits, or it’s detriment to my person and character. I’ve been treated as a “Dirty Nigger”. I understand that I have friends that I love that are “MY N’s”, and that my Dad, Mother and Sister are cringing if they’re reading me say this right now (actually, let me change this to just say “N’s” – there.). I understand I grew up in a world that mostly saw me as a “Black” man, or child, or baby. I know my Mother and Father only saw me as “their” baby - and for the confusion and problems their trying to teach their children not to see “colour” caused, I love them to my core for doing their best to try to teach me to only see people for who they are, not what’s on the surface. It’s actually not them, it’s the society I had to grow up in that has failed me. They were right, we’re the same, but for the purpose of conversation, society makes us separate ourselves. Their being “right” did not prepare me for some of the issues I would have to, and still face today.
Humans are Brown, it’s time to accept it. I can feel the resistance through the screen. Whether you believe in God, evolution or something else - the first Humans were definitely Brown. Hey! Jesus was Brown! (I’m really gonna piss someone off), and even though the Catholics started depicting him as White in whatever century, that’s still a very light brown. We’re Brown. I’m Brown. You’re a shade of .. Brown. Do me a favour, whether you’re alone or with someone else, try saying it out loud, right now, say it with a sense of self realization “I am Brown”. Did you do it? Did it feel weird? Scary? Did you recoil? Did you feel your brain neurons doing something strange? Do it again maybe. Look in a mirror and say it 5 times out loud. I literally dare you. Doesn’t feel right? Okay, take the purest White, or the purest Black paint you can find and paint it on your skin, then go back to the mirror. Perfect match? No? That’s because you’re a shade of Brown. Is beige a shade of Brown? Sure. But trust me, you’re not what they taught you. We’re all different shades of the same colour, and so, save for a couple minor biological differences due to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) or years of minor environmental adaptations. We-are-actually-all-the-same.
Phew (wipes forhead). Blog Number Two.
I know society won’t make this change, at least no time in the near future. But I argue that NO one is White, and no one is Black. I can pray, that maybe one day in the distant future when we’re all using Web 5.0, or when the Web is directly interlinked into all of our brains, or we’re living in the Metaverse, sleeping in capsules 24hrs/day and completely succumb to the will of A.I. powered robots that have taken over the Earth (Matrix reference – you younger kids won’t get this), that maybe someone will dig up this historical blog here, and I’ll get some degree of credit post-mortem for helping to plant one of the seeds that finally ended racism.
✌🏾 Clinton Davis
“Race is the child of racism, not the father.”
TA-NEHISI COATESAuthor of "Between the World and Me"
A bit of extra reading material if you’re interested, that I haven’t actually read myself, simply skimmed through, but I will.
Clinton is a entrepreneur with interests in retail, beauty, music, real estate, blockchain, farming, and more. He is also a founder of BlackLantic.
"I migrated to NB in 2009, to my surprise, well ahead of the 2020/21 crowd 😉."
With a strong belief that POC need to support, work together, and collaborate, Clinton has spent years driven by a need to make the world a better place for his kids, and people of all cultures/lifestyles to grow up in.
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