Can it be argued that we are doing ourselves a disservice calling ourselves black?
With my mum having come from the Caribbean island of St.Vincent, I refer to myself as being black. However, I have met British Zimbabwean’s who are darker-complexioned than me who refer to themselves as being “coloured”.
For those of you who are of a younger generation than I am, “coloured” used to be the acceptable, or possibly the politically correct term to use for people of colour.
However, to these Zimbabweans it held different connotations, as they were attempting to divide themselves from the darker skinned blacks.
This could have been something they put in place, or it could have been put in place by the darker-skinned majority. However, with the British ruling Zimbabwe for around one hundred and fifty years, it is more likely that the British brought in a caste system like they did in India, based on colour, which eventually morphed into a way of determining an individual’s value, and the position you could hold in a job.
In Britain we are fortunate that all people of colour from the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa, apart from the first and second generation British “coloured” people from Africa, identify as black. After all we share very similar experiences. Or do we?
My heritage is completely mixed (I even have some Scottish in me) but I consider myself as being black and always have…ever since hatred and abuse taught me there was a difference between people.
But when I look at my colour, it’s most definitely brown. And that’s what we all are, different shades of brown.
But to add complexity to this colour description, when white people have been out in the sun, some also look brown. Indeed, if I avoided going out in the sun, it’s possible that I may find some white sunbathing enthusiasts who are darker than me. Not many, but the occasional one.
Still I remain black, whilst that person remains white.
So, if it’s not about colour, what is it? And why do we use that term? And why when I meet Indian people who are darker than me don’t they refer to themselves as being black?
Before I continue, let me first explain that I have nothing against being black. In fact I love the inclusivity it brings. I have friends who, to British society, look white, but who refer to themselves as being black because they have some black in their heritage. I love that, even though they don’t share the same difficulties as me and of course I don’t share the same difficulties as those who are darker than me, we are able to accept eachother as one race…black.
And so the question comes to my mind. “If it’s not about colour, what is it?” And, in my opinion, the answer is that it’s about caste. The British and their caste system that was being utilised in England long before the advent of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, the British used to sell lower caste white people to Africans as slaves.
When the British were not permitted to sail through Spanish waters to Africa to capture slaves, they instead pulled white children off the streets and the Irish from their homes to use as “workers” in the new world.
In fact, in America, the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks, the Polish and people of other European countries were not deemed to be white until the 20th century. But I digress…
So, if this is all about caste, then why do we insist on referring to ourselves as being black? Because in every country the British have travelled to, they have deveoped the premise that the darker your skin colour the lower your ranking in society.
Oddly enough, I understand that. After all the majority of English people were white, which meant that they could use the caste system to justify subduing countries with slaughter and degradation, whilst maintaining the belief that they were the superior race.
But we are happy to be called black, in fact we embrace our blackness. We find light in it, we find unity in it, we make songs to praise our blackness, whilst condemning the caste system we have been put in. We are the Dalits, the Shudras and can also be the Vaishyas, the Kshatriyas and the Brahmins, because being black there is no caste, as black is made up of every colour in the rainbow. We are a people who span many nations throughout the world and all are welcome.
South Asians are welcome, East Asians are welcome, South Americans, North Americans, the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks, the Albanians, the native Americans, the Aboriginal Australians and every white person who denounces racism is welcome. Because we all originated from East Africa and we are all one people.