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“Black” people do not exist. There is no such thing as a black people. Although we are used to calling the people from the continent named Africa black, the people there are not black. Charcoal is definitely black and the same goes for the bottom of a burned pot. But are the so-called black people charcoal or a burned pot? Even so, just as we do not describe a vehicle by its colour but by its make, model, functions and so on, so too is it unjustifiable to describe the countless, varied, intelligent and willful consciousness called humans “from” Africa as black. The use of colour as the dominant classification of a people is an unjustifiable imposition created, maintained and propagated as a legal, descriptive and existential status to mislead, to weaken and to control the so-called Africans.
The first question that you might ask is, “aren’t blacks black?” The answer simply is that he who asserts must prove. Let those who say that the people of Africa are black prove that the skins of Africans are black and that therefore, this qualifies as their dominant and just ID. As I will demonstrate shortly however, not only is the black label false when applied to a lot of people, it does not correctly define any nation anywhere in the world. The black-ID is a legal and political concept that has the consequence of enabling control and domination of the people affected by the description. Here, it is important to keep in mind that for thousands of years before colonialism ushered in an era of supposedly legal robberies, the people of Africa identified and described themselves by their associations, by their tribes, by their clans, by their lineages; by their languages, by their religions, by their professions, by their places of birth and so on. They did not see, feel, think or describe themselves as this or that colour. That the people of Africa have different skin colours from others is a fact. But the skin colour of a person or a group of persons has never mattered as a dominant form of self-identification amongst Africans before some people came around and starting fixing one colour for all as a legal fact. The use of the term black, brown or colour to describe the people of Africa is a colonialist’s invention and a legal status unjustifiably imposed on populations out of ignorance, out of over generalizations and out of bad faith classifications unsupported by science, logic or justice.
To understand the reason for this essay, let us discuss the significance of the black-ID concept as it manifest in popular consciousness. For the greater number of people, the word black stands for darkness. The black colour is associated with doom, evil, inferiority and with many, many negative things. By contrast, the word white is made synonymous with enlightenment, goodness, superiority and with many, many great things. Even in our fictions, we paint the devils black and the angels white. If we were talking advertising, we would say that white is a great and preferred brand and that black is an inferior and a damaging brand. The interesting question is this. If black is so bad, why is it that hundreds of millions of persons from the African continent have the black label as their legal status and dominant brand? Why have so many persons of African origin accepted or acquiesced in being called black at law; or why do they routinely describe themselves as black?
One answer might be that the people called black have born into a world dominated by so-called whites where the loudest status accorded them is a black-ID. They are forced to adopt and to apply the black label as describing their beings even when they know and feel that the description is a true fiction. The people labelled black have had no option then but to raise their hands when “blacks” is shouted and to go with the flow. As I mentioned earlier, the people of African origin have many different skins colours. Nevertheless, even if for the sake of argument only it were true that the skins colours of all of them were black, that would still not explain why out of the endless characteristics that form the human being, the colour on the skin of a person has become a dominant global ID or a legal description of the person in countries dominated by so-called whites, so-called yellows or so-called browns.
The religion, the language, the place of birth or even the trade of a person could easily be used as a more relevant label for the person rather than the colour of the skin which contributes nothing in terms of consciousness, character, intelligence, emotions, talent, fortunes, will etc. More importantly, man is not a colour. Man is not an appearance. The human being is not the form described as two-legged, two-armed, two-eyed, one-head creature walking upright on earth. A human being is a complex living being with intelligent consciousness, living and working cooperatively with similar beings to know the world, to invent tools, systems, products and goods for survival and for progress. The key ID for the human being is not his skin colour but his complex ability to be learned and to collaborate with others to know, to invent and to change the world. There can be no legal justification for the use of one irrelevant and negative attribute such as so-called black skin colour to classify and to assign status to a countless variety of human beings as a result of their differences in skin colour from other persons. The question about the colour of a man’s skin should never be asked in any legal document, whether same be private or governmental. All such questions are unconstitutional and unjust. People have the right to be described or refer to themselves, without using their deemed skin colour as their dominant ID.
The Americans want to be called Americans and so too do the Canadians, the Germans, the British, the French, the Dutch, the Italians, the Saudis, the Chinese and so on. People have the right to be labelled correctly according to traits and attributes that do justice and more accurately reflect their experiences, their histories, their efforts, talents and contributions to the world. No European goes around Europe calling Europeans whites in Europe. That term appears to be meaningful only when applied in the comparative context of so-called blacks versus whites. Among so-called whites, it does not make sense to talk about white as a form of identification. Yet, here again, we have the hundreds of millions of people labelled as white whose skin colours do not come close to snow and yet because white means good, nice and superior, they are not complaining. The so called blacks should complain because the colour concept is inherently injurious towards them.
If the colour on a man’s skin does not accurately or even remotely reflect his consciousness, his intelligence, his gifts, his experiences, his fortunes, his will and so forth, then what accounts for the persistence of the colour-label? We should go back to what I said at the beginning. Black is deemed evil or inferior. Therefore, those called black are deemed evil or inferior. Describing persons as evil or inferior is a political classification and legal status that supports distinct, controlling and discriminatory action against those persons affected. To say “I am black and proud” might be nice and heroic but adding proud to black does not change the inherently derogatory meaning of the word black. Adding star to black and calling it a black star doesn’t make the black shine. Black stars don’t shine. It is therefore, liberatory, true and revolutionary to demand and insist on the freedom to describe oneself without the black label.
What I am saying is simple. The legal concept of blackness as applied to whole populations of hundreds of millions of people is not natural. It is not accurate. It is not just. The forced ID is not true of the persons so labelled. The concept is not a harmless or neutral adjective but an inherently political statement and classification that is irreparably injurious to the people so described. ‘What type of politics is this’, you ask? This is discriminatory, divisive, disrespectful and injurious politics. Whoever is labelled black is labelled evil or inferior. Whoever is labeled white is branded superior. Thus, the white and black labels benefits some persons and injures others. The concept of colour as ID has importance only in a context of a worldview of ignorance and in overly broad generalizations that seek to permanently assign inferior or bad status to certain named populations. It has no place in free, scientific and democratic societies.
One serious injury caused by the painting of people black and forcing them to call themselves black is that it forces children to adopt, to accept and to describe themselves as being a part of the evil and of the inferior. If the child starts out thinking this way, what are the chances of him becoming a genius, good and heroic? The concept of colour-IDs has three main functions of distancing, grouping and inferior-profiling. In the first place, the term distances the so-called blacks from the so-called whites. It is a comparative term that necessarily set peoples apart based on the color label. What is remarkable is that a person labelled black is of necessity “given” inferior capacities and destinations that in a self-fulfilling prophecy justify low performances resulting from alienation, discrimination and mis-education. This fiction of colour-ID places an unjust legal and psychological burden on young people who are invariably forced to either accept the prejudicial attributes and become what blacks are supposed to become or they struggle to be ‘non-black black’ men and women. See the irony and the madness of the world.
The concept of colour-ID lumps the so-called blacks together deeming them to have common or same characteristics and capacities whereas that is not the reality. It has the effect of denying variety, uniqueness and differences in temperament, in consciousness, in talent, in will, in destinies etc. It forces people to be members of the tribe called black even though the person may never have anything remotely in common with what may be described as a black person. The continuing legality of the black label has the effect of negating the freedom of the human being to be what he is, to be what feels, to be what he thinks and does. The continuing legality of the colour label for classifications and descriptions of whole populations imposes a false and injurious imperative upon a group of persons generation upon generation without a reasonable basis or justification at law or in equity. In forcing people into the legal category called blacks where black means a whole number of negative attributes, the status of blackness unnecessarily and unjustifiably burdens the child with a heavy baggage of false and injurious identification.
If the concept of blackness as a people were abolished as legal status, children would be free to describe themselves by their religion, by their ethnicity, language, place of birth, talent, membership in association and so on. When this happens, the burden of proving that someone is black or this or that colour would shift to the assertor. It would no longer be the burden of a person to prove that he is not black or that he is black ‘but different’. The proposition of law that applies here is natural and clear. It is this. Every person has the right to choose an ID and to describe himself by any dominant social characteristic(s) that best suits his consciousness, experiences, capacities and will. Nobody should be forced to describe himself as a colour when he or she does not feel that he is the colour so-called. Since the black label has injurious consequences, as a matter of law, those affected have the right to ask that they be free from being described as such. No human being is a colour. Don’t be deceived. Don’t buy into the negative politics using colour-IDS as a form of control and inferior-profiling. You are a blessed divine being. You are not a colour, whether black or white. Go and be great. Peace unto the worlds!
Source: By Nana Oppong
The writer is the President of the Distinguished Scholars of Africa (DistinSA) and International Standard Journalists Association (ISJA)