Black and White: An Abstract Conversation
(WARNING: This article is explicit and controversial. It is also meant to bring an understanding or make people, perhaps, think in a different way. If this is not the case then the writer failed. This is bad for the reader but worse for the writer. The writer will then lose his job because we do not want to offend the reader. This could be a devastating turn of events, especially since the writer has a child, a wife, and another baby on the way. Happy Thanksgiving.)
“A country where there are no freedoms is a black and white country; it is colorless and lifeless. Such a country needs nothing but colors, nothing but freedoms!” ― Mehmet Murat Ildan
Black and white. White and black. She’s black. He’s white. He’s black. She’s white. They got into a fight. Who’s going to jail? Good evening, class. I’m your substitute teacher. Your other teacher jumped off a building. Well, the building was small. One story. But he landed on his chest. Splat. Bellyflop. Right into the pool. But he didn’t know how to swim. Poor bastard. Luckily the pool was only a kiddie pool. I know what you’re thinking. No, no kids were there. They were long gone. One of the kids pooped and they all fled to the nearest popsicle truck parked out in the empty lot. That was my truck. Now here I am. Good evening. Looking out into the crowd there is a lot of you here. Well, not many. You know what they say, "three’s a crowd." Well, thank you for having me. This lecture tonight is dedicated to the KKK. Wow. You guys. Nice to see you. Goddamn. You don’t even need a sack over your head anymore. Just when we thought you were gone, there you are, in the White House. Well, live and let die, right? But you guys were fooled, you know that. Your President...I mean, our President, is not white. No, he’s red. Maybe I’m wrong though. It could be his blood pressure rising when he is sitting next to Obama. Just kidding, relax. A bad joke never hurt anybody. But I guess this isn’t really a joke anymore. No way, Jose. This is actually pretty serious. So serious it ain’t even about color. Color is the veil that conceals our soul. Black and white. White and black. He snorts Coke, she drinks Hope.
Yeah, folks, this color thing is just not accurate. Not only is it inaccurate, it’s dehumanizing on both sides of the spectrum. But speeches and lectures such as this, of course, are cliche. We’ve heard it all before. All men, women, and children (and for some people Yorkshire Terriers or other small, genetically modified dogs) are created equal. This is all theory. It’s all ideology. Right? Actually it’s not. Let me ask you, KKK. Do you shit? You do? Oh, great. So does he. He’s from Burkina Faso. Wow, you found something in common. Shh, there is something else: he also laughs when he is tickled! Imagine that! When a bird feather delicately brushes against your nerve endings, you both convulse with uncontrollable urine inducing laughter! Holy Flapjacks! Don’t tell your Grand Wizard or don’t let the congregation at your church know. They might call you an apostate or worse. He even cleans his ass. Wait?! He cleans his ass with water and soap? He doesn’t smear it around with toilet paper? That guy is disgusting. Lord have mercy. You KKK, crack me up, in a deadly serious kind of way. But it’s not your fault you followed in the path of Cain, while Abel’s blood bloodies your grandma’s white sheets you wear. Oh, yeah. You don’t need the white sheets. You are in the White House. Color is the veil that conceals the soul.
So when I was asked to lecture at this venue, I thought “how can I do this and say something relevant?” Then I remembered the class I took at Hunter College in New York City (The Great Babylon to you people who don’t believe in global warming) with Professor Katy Perry. She is a linguist who teaches (among other things) a class on the history of the English language. In this class we were encouraged to discover the truth about the origins of words. How funny it is when you start to investigate history and with this lesson in mind I embarked on this assignment. But I didn't need to go very far. A serpent came to me and asked me to bite an apple which grew on the Tree of Knowledge. And what was the serpent's name? Google.
I took the apple Google gave me. It tasted like knowledge! Not a hard, acquired knowledge requiring millennia of struggle and striving. No, it was a cheap, easy knowledge. The only requisite was a point and a click. Man, the devil is bad and the knowledge hurt, like John Mellencamp sings, so damn good. It’s the kind of knowledge that could actually make a KKK member throw in the towel, I mean sheet. Oh shit. But I am not here to give a lesson on equality, love, or peace. This is a lesson of definition. Vocabulary. History. The things on most people’s “To Do List” right below vacuum the curtains and clean the lint from the dryer. But history is necessary and sometimes painful, this is why some groups of people feel the need to rewrite it (Google any video about the real Thanksgiving). But let’s do a little therapy and put aside all of our, whatever you call it, bigotries. Let us learn something together.
Based on every possible form of research, I found some absolutely, devastatingly, alarmingly, astronomically, objectionably, sincerely good news. I was flabbergasted. Sure, according to the gospel of David Duke I am wrong. Dead wrong. OJ's-glove-doesn't-fit-so-you-must-acquit-wrong. But I covered my tracks like the paw prints of a dead dog in the snow. Pitch black snow.
Yes, the origins of the word black goes back, my friends! Way way back. And research, I did. No, the serpent gave me no easy answers. All the cheap and dirty websites said the same thing but I said No! Gosh darnit. Give me the truth! So I went to the source, the Oxford English dictionary and lo and behold it said the same gosh darn thing all the other websites said. The original definition of the word black means...ta da! White. Translate it: black. Blanc. Blanco. Bianca. Bianco. Bianchi. But you KKK don’t know that because your history is a fabrication. A fairy tale. A lie. And you believe those lies. Then you tell them to your kids. Parents shouldn't lie to their kids unless you're talking about Santa Claus. Sad, sad, sad. You should pick up a book every once in awhile and you could learn something instead. But don’t take this as a blanc, I mean, blank slate. Black and white are more closely related than you can imagine. There is an old King named Alfric. He is the dude who commissioned the first Olde English writings on the Bible. His definition of black? Hmm. I wonder what it could be. Blonde. A person with blonde hair. Yeah, someone with black hair was a blonde and what’s up is down and what’s right is wrong.
Okay, blondie, I get it. I know what you’re saying: “You are tricking me with words. I know my history. Our civilization is what made this world great. We are better than you.” Well, this is where I might ask some of the people disagreeing to leave the auditorium. But before I do that I will tell you the origin of the word white. It comes from the word wheat. Like bread. Not Wonderbread. Just bread. The stuff we eat. It wasn’t until that blasted Spanish Inquisition where the definition of blackness became derogatory, white became something virtuous, a lot of people died in the centuries that followed because definitions of words changed. The color black with its intentions of evil and negativity was applied to "others." Those people from that land to the south where the sun doesn't stop shining. Moors, Muslims. Xenophobia. Do you see a trend? Void of color. Color. Ahh, this brings me back to where I started.
After Black went from being white to being black as we know it, it (because “it” is as abstract as the words black or white) became rather perverted. It was turned into a dirty word. It wasn’t only connoted to people from places such as North Africa, the Mid-East, the Far East, it was also used against women and people who didn’t fit the dominant patriarchal mold. (No disrespect to religion. But using the word for ill towards others is no bueno. You need to rectify your history, folks. One love) Also, women who didn’t fit the mold of the patriarchal status quo were considered to be practicing “black magic" and they were tied to stake and burned like bacon.
To you who have stuck around, the point I make, while long winded, is of some consequence. According to the beloved modern Oxford English Dictionary (and I am treading on the ground of Malcolm X) the word black can be paraphrased as: “characterized as lacking hue or brightness; absence of light; soiled; stained; gloomy; pessimistic; harmful; inexcusable; enveloped in darkness; populations of Africa, Oceania, Asia.” End quote. It's funny how a word's definition can change so dramatically in a couple thousand years! Need I say more?
But the words black and white do not really actually seem to describe anything human at all even though they are applied to certain groups with differing melanin counts. This is obvious by looking at the definition from now and then. Even more interesting is the two different words carried for centuries the same definition. All of this is, if you will, a bunch of mumbo jumbo at the most, and a bunch of repatriation of meaning (changing the definition to suit your convenience) at the least. Or vice versa. In respect to both words, in applying them to people and their variety of skin color, they are abstractions in the extreme. They mean little in terms of flesh and blood. They mean little when two people are in love. They are just words but words mean nothing when people cry or they laugh. With this thinking we all lose. Mr. and Mrs. KKK, you who are not necessarily black or white, why don’t you stop and find yourself in this piece of history instead of having someone tell you your history for you, instead of fabricating a history so you won't have to deal with things you are afraid of. You, who call me white and them black (or vice versa), are the ones who are black and white in the mind (see quote at the beginning). Why don't you lay down your burning cross and join us in restoring the integrity of a definition so that we may change the way people see each other. This is not about skin pigment. It is about ideology. It is about seeing people in the veil and not by the soul. It is about a conversation in the abstract. Thus, it is about the death of language with any real meaning, the death of what it means to be human. End quote.
Below is a visual example of the point the lecture is making. This, I feel, is where images speak louder than words.