#BlackLivesMatter became a trending hashtag, morphed from an actual cultural touchpoint, with increased shootings of unarmed men in American inner cities. If you notice, we did not say ‘unarmed black men.’ Why?
‘People of color’ became a mot du jour, after it replaced the more incendiary ‘colored people’ that characterized the worst of Jim Crow America.
Still, is that the right term?
The lynchings of the disadvantaged and disempowered may have subsided in America in the modern-day, that’s taking place a few thousand miles away in India now.
But we digress.
The more palatable and ‘acceptable’ term for people of African descent in America has been ‘black’ for a while. Though, for a lot many, it is acceptable in that your high school grades were ‘acceptable.’
While ‘people of color’ may allow for some political solidarity between ‘non-white’ citizens of America paradoxically, or to talk about Hollywood exclusionism, does it not create more of an ‘us and them’ scenario in real life on the streets, one could argue?
For example, when we think about James Baldwin, we do no think about the ‘black author’ James Baldwin, we think about the singular author James Baldwin.
For many of us, Lebron James is an American champion basketball player, not an African-American basketball champion, and certainly not a ‘black basketball champion.’
The other side argues that this may be too simplistic, mentioning the word ‘color’ acknowledges how racism and White Supremacy affect and have affected people from many minority groups, not just ‘Black’ people, and acts a forum for their collective shared experiences.
Morgan Freeman, him of the go-to voiceovers for Hollywood box-office smashes, arguably generated a debate ‘Black History Month’ when he told “60 Minutes” co-host Mike Wallace, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”
Freeman has a point, even if it may have lacked nuance according to many.
For some ‘African-Americans’, there is bitterness that Black History Month has in their minds become a commercialized bit of national tokenism, which is the larger issue being discussed here.
Celebrated figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks serve as great history lessons, but is anyone learning?
Doesn’t using the word ‘black’ go agains the very ideal of ‘not judging the color of the skin, but the content of the character’ anchor of the great man’s speech?
Does the word lead to cultural ghettoization, apart from its physical equivalent in the inner American cities, where unarmed men get shot by law enforcement?
It is a valid point from a historical perspective that these labels and terms may effectively highlight the need to educate and educate continuously, perhaps okay to disagree with the legendary actor, but once you are better informed, you may argue that Morgan Freeman is right when he says ‘ stop talking about it,’ at least when it refers to color.
James Baldwin once said, “The plea is simple — look at it.” Racism may be far from over for minority groups, but for the majority of us, perhaps referring to someone by the amount of melanin in their skin is an idea that needs a rethink.
The plea is simple. All lives matter. Equally.