Black is a color
So is White.
A reminder for White people.
It is said that the concept of “White” was born in America and it seems to be true that never before had “white” people thought of themselves as “White” people. Not until they had to make a sharp distinction between themselves and people born with darker skin.
It helped a little that “white” skin was valued long before it became a symbol of racial superiority. Medieval Europe, which had rarely set eyes on an African, valued white skin as a symbol of class. Those with white skin, especially women, were those who did not have to work outside, ergo veils and parasols. Moving through the years, men with soft, white hands were those who did not do manual labor. Their hands designated them as “gentlemen.” In America, however, white became White. And black became Black.
Black is the color of the night sky. The color of blindness. It is the color of crows and cats, bats and bears, ravens and witches and snakes. Black is the color of stormclouds and sin. We fall into black depressions. We wear black to funerals. Black is the color of death.
Snow is white. Swans are white. Light is white, since white reflects all other colors leaving itself alone. It is the color of purity, since anything white will show whatever stains it. Brides wear white. White is the color of possibility. A color upon which anything can be written.
White and Black are metaphors:
White is good, honest, pure and clean.
Black contains all the colors, does not show stain. It is untrustworthy, impure, dark and dangerous.
Colors are easy to see. Metaphors are not. Too often when we see color we see the metaphor without recognizing it for what it is. The black man is not simply a man with black skin. He is Black. Untrustworthy, dark and dangerous. You kill him before he can kill you. Because he certainly will. That white man is not simply a man with white skin. He is White, trustworthy and good. You don’t kill him because you can trust him not to kill you. Because he will trust you. But you might be wrong. Both times.
People are not metaphors.
The reason I thought this almost childish exposition of the difference between black and white necessary is because I suspect too many of us tend to see the metaphor first. And the metaphor can get us killed. Or prosecuted for killing a metaphor.
Metaphors are good on the page. In life they can trip you up.