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Black (color)

This page is about the term black with reference to mood and color. For the colloquial expression black people, see African American.

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Fred Hampton (1948 - 1969)

Color black: Usage, symbolism, colloquial expressions

In Western societies black is most often used with a negative connotation, with a few notable exceptions. For instance, a "black day" would be used in these cultures to refer to a sad or tragic day. However, to say one's accounts are "in the black" is used to mean that one is free of debt (a very positive thing in a capitalist society). Being "in the red" is to be in debt.

In arguments things can be black or white, or shades of gray, the intensity used as an analogue for things such as truthfulness or right and wrong. (Note that when referring to the intensity of pigment or light, black is always the complete lack of intensity.)

In Western cultures and their colonial offshoots, the color black is often used in painting, film, and literature to evoke a sense of the unknown or of death. In these cultures, the color black is often seen as the color of mourning, though this convention is less strict than in earlier times, when widows and widowers were expected to wear black for a year after the death of their spouses.

However, in Western fashion, black is a color that is noted as being a reliably stylish choice for formal and recreational clothes, especially for social gatherings. The tuxedo is a prime example of this.

However, in other cultures, such as the Maasai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, the color black is associated with rain clouds and is thus a symbol of life and prosperity.

Black is frequently used figuratively for lack of metaphorical light. A Black Project is a project not readily visible, such as government actions kept secret from the public, (such as Enigma Decryption or narcs,) or organizations that keep a low profile, (such as certain Société Anonyme or most secret societies.) Black propaganda is the use of known falsehoods, partial truths or masquerades in propaganda to confuse an opponent.

The term "black hole" is applied to collapsed stars because, like a black object, they neither reflect nor emit light. (The term is metaphorical in the extreme, because no other properties of black objects or black voids apply to black holes, which more literally could be described as lacking almost all familiar properties, rather than having the property of blackness in place other colorations.)

The national rugby team of New Zealand is called the All Blacks, in reference to their black outfits.

Soccer referees traditionally wear all black outfits, although nowadays the rules have changed and referees are seen wearing outfits in different colors. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black#Usage.2C_symbolism.2C_colloquial_expressions [Aug 2004]

Black with reference to African peoples

The Oxford English Dictionary contains evidence of the use of black with reference to African peoples as early as 1400, and certainly the word has been in wide use in racial and ethnic contexts ever since. However, it was not until the late 1960s that black (or Black) gained its present status as a self-chosen ethnonym with strong connotations of racial pride, replacing the then-current Negro among Blacks and non-Blacks alike with remarkable speed. Equally significant is the degree to which Negro became discredited in the process, reflecting the profound changes taking place in the Black community during the tumultuous years of the civil rights and Black Power movements. The recent success of African American offers an interesting contrast in this regard. Though by no means a modern coinage, African American achieved sudden prominence at the end of the 1980s when several Black leaders, including Jesse Jackson, championed it as an alternative ethnonym for Americans of African descent. The appeal of this term is obvious, alluding as it does not to skin color but to an ethnicity constructed of geography, history, and culture, and it won rapid acceptance in the media alongside similar forms such as Asian American, Hispanic American, and Italian American. But unlike what happened a generation earlier, African American has shown little sign of displacing or discrediting black, which remains both popular and positive. The difference may well lie in the fact that the campaign for African American came at a time of relative social and political stability, when Americans in general and Black Americans in particular were less caught up in issues involving radical change than they were in the 1960s. ·Black is sometimes capitalized in its racial sense, especially in the African-American press, though the lowercase form is still widely used by authors of all races. The capitalization of Black does raise ancillary problems for the treatment of the term white. Orthographic evenhandedness would seem to require the use of uppercase White, but this form might be taken to imply that whites constitute a single ethnic group, an issue that is certainly debatable. Uppercase White is also sometimes associated with the writings of white supremacist groups, a sufficient reason of itself for many to dismiss it. On the other hand, the use of lowercase white in the same context as uppercase Black will obviously raise questions as to how and why the writer has distinguished between the two groups. There is no entirely happy solution to this problem. In all likelihood, uncertainty as to the mode of styling of white has dissuaded many publications from adopting the capitalized form Black. --The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, accessed May 2003

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