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“Blackness” as a negative archetype

November 21, 2015

“Blackness” is an archetype (ruling pattern emblazoned on our “collective unconscious”) of general negativity. Why? As entities embedded in the material world, in order to find our way about, and protect ourselves from physical threats, we need signals from the material world. The quickest is a form of energy that fills space and bounces off of objects, and then triggers receptors in our eyes, producing an image of all the physical items around us. We call this “light”. It’s obviously a good thing, and its absence is called “darkness”, in which we are vulnerable to objects we can’t see.
It does also become a “cover” for other people doing things that either threaten us, or might be otherwise opposed by other people (such as in society in general). So across the board, darkness” (or “blackness”) took on a very negative connotation, and thus becoming such a universally negative archetype. (One notable exception is when it became opposed to redness, as in financial status. Red can go either way in being positive or negative, since it is the color of blood, and thus can represent either life itself, or danger, where blood may be shed. And the same with it being roughly the color of fire, which can heat enough for comfort and health, or to destroy. So in this instance, “in the black” meant being out of the state of financial danger represented by “in the red”, and from here, the upcoming “Black Friday”. That term was originally negative though, referring to a financial crash. It’s also claimed that, that it was a discount day for slaves, to help plantation owners in preparation for the Winter season; though this seems to be more a myth. The term later came to describe the chaos in Philadelphia, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game the following day. In the ’80’s, it was then reinvented by retailers to the current “in the black” sense).

“Shadow” indicates a region where light is blocked by an object, and thus in relative darkness. So this became the archetype of what is negative and rejected and thus to be hidden out of view or suppressed into unconsciousness, as we try to put our “best foot forward” in the world of people, and even to ourselves, or even collectively as a “society” of people.

So this archetype eventually was unfortunately overgeneralized to skin color, and from there, as more justification (including “biblical”) needed to be made [particularly for the institution of slavery in the 1600’s], dark skin was assumed to be a “curse”. Seeking to find this curse in scripture, one was readily found, in Genesis 9, and on groups of people descended from the man believed to be the father of the “negroid” race. Some went further than that, and said it was the “mark of Cain”. Cain was before the flood, and according to the global flood theory most conservative Christians believe in, his descendants should have all perished. But they’ll probably say that while Noah and his sons were of Seth, Ham’s wife carried the genes.

(But now we’re getting further and further into extrabiblical speculation. As it is, the “curse” on Canaan was not on all of Ham’s descendants, even if it was in reaction to something he did, and most importantly, it was not uttered by God, but by Noah himself, in a hung over anger. God never claims to honor it).

Adding to this, since the lighter skinned people were quicker to both develop technologically, plus adopt the biblically based monotheistic religions that supposedly promoted more civility, the home of many of the dark skinned people, Africa, became known as “the dark continent”. Even though nearly all tribes of men outside the Abrahamic traditions naturally gravitated toward polytheism and ritual (and many within those traditions still fell back into it in different ways), “demonic religion” became specially tagged on these people.

And all of this would be used to justify the coralling of these people into inferior positions in “civilized” society. And the removal of this restraint blamed on the downfall of civilized societies (by misguided or even malicious “do-gooders” trying to make all “equal” just for the sake of equality without regard of “the facts”, or perhaps to purposefully bring down the civilization out of envy or whatever).

And then the resultant dysfunction of many of the people would be the ultimate validation of this. Then, people try to point to “other ethnic/immigrant groups” who suffered discrimination, but “pulled themselves up”, while blacks have never recovered, and then take this as proof of the original stereotypes of the blacks (“culture” replacing “genetics” now, to most) being lazy.
But what’s ignored, is this archetypical nature of “blackness”, where other groups were “white” skinned, and could hide their identity. This created what I’ve called a “hierarchy” of “whiteness”, where “black” is naturally at the bottom of every version of this list.
(The ongoing dysfunction was largely from the oppression put in place, yet defenders of that system under “exceptional America” conveniently turn it around so that “liberal” attempts at remediating the problem are what have caused all the modern problems in the first place, and that blacks were actually better off before the Civil Rights era! How ‘cursed’ can a group be, for that to be true? Meanwhile, the “give everything to the rich” policies that are more to blame for most of the economic problems are said not to work because of the government “meddling” in things).

So they would then react in anger, and through intimidating stances (such as “gangsta/“thug”/“copkiller”), actually owning very negative stereotypes of themselves (including even the chief negative term taken from the racists), but then continue to suffer from the consequences of them.

This has all been like a runaway domino effect. So bad, that the negative connotation is even still evident in people’s attitudes toward skin tone even among “colored” people themselves (and especially younger females).

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The archetypal connotations of “black” and “white” that have wrongly been extended to relative skin color.

The Nation of Islam and others recognized this archetype; as one of the introductory things they taught (as you can see in the stories of Malcolm X and others) is how “black” is always “bad”, and white is “good”. This was blamed on “racism”, and as the Bible also recognizes the dichotomy, it was taken as proof that the Bible was just a “white control tool” (likely “corrupted” by both Jews and Christians as the rest of Islam teaches).

Of course, the “black is bad” stereotype had also spread to other things, such as cats; becoming a symbol of “bad luck”, and the ghoulish atmosphere of Halloween as the pets of its witches. (This has even led to some cruel treatment of them).
In this vein, these afrocentric forms of Islam influenced hip-hop, and one popular rap even linked all of this together:
Black cat is bad luck; bad guys wear black…
Must have been a white guy who started all that…
[Then eventually counters with a Black Muslim reverse racist theory of white features such as blue eyes being a “disease created by leprosy”].

On the flipside, “white” became an archetype of “purity”, because the “color” indicates a state of light that stimulates all of our optical receptors (R, G, B cones equally, plus luminosity rods), and so is an absolute visual state that thus also (opposite of black, which hides) exposes any foreign objects, so that if you see something “white” or “clear”, it likely has nothing else in it.
(But of course, this is not always the case. As there are clear poisons. But things like this generally aren’t considered in the development of archetypes).

It was still wrong to generalize this to skin. No human skin is truly white either, not even that suffering from albinism. (In that regard, to hold up the general “lightness” vs “darkness” as determining good or evil by them fitting these archetypes is analogous to an average person looking at a criminal and thinking he’s “good” in comparison. That person is still far from the true mark, spiritually according the the Biblical Gospel, and has simply set up his own mark based on his current status).

Yet in religion, all biblical characters were traditionally drawn as Caucasians rather than as the olive-skinned people who actually live in that area. (Fostering this illusion, was that the Jews had largely intermixed in Europe, most taking on its “white” skin, and so added to the assumption that this was the original “race” of the people in the Bible, beginning with the first man, Adam, and only excepting the descendants of Ham and parts of Japheth. Many interpreters acknowledged Japheth as being divided between Caucasian and Asians, while some actually placed the Caucasians in Shem‘s line like the Istaelites!) Meanwhile, the Devil and demons were generally portrayed in colors, including black, in black and white drawings.

All of this figures in the “implicit bias” or “commonsense racism” discussed by Ian Lopez in Dog Whistle Politics (see https://erictb.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/book-review-dog-whistle-politics), where he cites the “Implicit Association Test”, where people pair words like white with good, and black with bad (p.44), which “shows that racial discrimination often results from unconscious thought proceses, and need not stem from intentional malice, or indeed, any conscious purposes at all”. He points out “It’s true that we’re ‘hardwired’ to unconsciously assign meaning to perceived differences. But it’s false that we’re automatically programmed to think in terms of race. Rather, notions of race come from a shared culture steeped in racial stereotypes, as well as from material arrangements like segregated cities that make race a supremely salient social category”. He then cites a race scholar who points out “the unconscious is largely social” [i.e. “collective unconscious”, which is where archetypes spring from], and that the environment is what creates the negative associations and uses them in priming our psyches.

Edit: here is a standard example of implicit bias, using girls and dolls:

 

Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine, even mentioned the concept of “Africanized bees” (aka “killer bees”) that were believed to be set to swarm the US from the tropical regions to the south.

While, yes, Africanized bees, or killer bees, are a more aggressive hybrid of African and European bees, the way it was reiterated countless times while using the term “Africanized,” while subtly comparing it to the docile European bee, imprinted in the viewer’s mind that anything that comes out of the continent is inherently violent – even human beings (Hedding). The main idea to be pointed out here is not that the term “Africanized” was used to portray violent beings. It was the fact that that’s what the people perceive it as. If it weren’t for the internalized stereotyping and dehumanization of POC, the thought of connecting killer bees with black people would not have entered a viewer’s mind. But unfortunately society has been hardwired to see POC in a certain way and to never deviate from that idea of them.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/143557590/Bowling-for-Columbine-Racism-and-Fear

So it is incorrect to blame the Bible or whites for this; it’s an archetype that has been taken out of its original context and misapplied to justify oppression.

The archetypal (unconsciously engrained in the human psyche) nature of this dynamic makes me wonder if we’ll ever be able to completely eradicate all negative connotations of “blackness”.
Even though I often feel like saying blacks should cut out all the crime they are tagged with, because (in rapper KRS’s words) “you know we’re being watched, you know we’re beeing seen…”, and this used to justify the very racism we’re fighting; still, that’s validating the same portrayal of inferiority, such as the whole “twice as good” paradigm blacks have felt, where we have to do extra good, as if to compensate for deficiencies.
The reason they should cut it out is for the sake of the victims they are harming, and the community in general. This really wouldn’t prove anything anyway, to those dead set on scapegoating some other group for the problems of the nation they identify with (including their own loss of power). But it will make it harder to promote the stereotypes.

We should all recognize this archetype (as a product of the unconscious) and how it influences our views of blacks, (they themselves, and everyone else, of course, often through what’s called “commonsense racism”). Then, it would be easier to eliminate unfair discrimatory attitudes in ourselves.

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2 Comments
  1. In comment 3104 (aftermath of Charleston shooting) I linked to this article: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/05/why_america_adopted_race_based_slavery.single.html which deserves mention again. In the previous comment, I pointed out that it debunked the common argument that “Africans sold each other into slavery” by showing the whole political and economic reasons for switching from the original purpose of war captives and religious infidels

    In the Caribbean and Latin America, for well over a century, Spanish and Portuguese colonizers had enslaved “infidels”: first Indians and then Africans. At first, they relied for justification upon the Mediterranean tradition that persons of a different religion, or persons captured in war, could be enslaved for life. But hidden in this idea of slavery was the notion that persons who converted to Christianity should receive their freedom. Wealthy planters in the tropics, afraid that their cheap labor would be taken away from them because of this loophole, changed the reasoning behind their exploitation. Even persons who could prove that they were not captured in war and that they accepted the Catholic faith still could not change their appearance, any more than a leopard can change its spots. So by making color the key factor behind enslavement, dark-skinned people brought from Africa to work in silver mines and on sugar plantations could be exploited for life. Indeed, the servitude could be made hereditary, so enslaved people’s children automatically inherited the same unfree status.

    Where the Catholic colonies began enslaving based on color by 1650, Protestant North America held out longer, but the tide began to turn when labor became harder to obtain, due to such factors as England being struck by civil war, a big plague and the Great Fire of London. It was more difficult to use native Americans, because their numbers were limited, and they could easily escape back into their familiar wilderness. And the numbers of African slaves increased as the Atlantic slave trade grew.

    As the size and efficiency of this brutal traffic increased, so did its rewards for European investors. Their ruthless competition pushed up the volume of transatlantic trade from Africa and drove down the relative cost of individual Africans in the New World at a time when the price of labor from Europe was rising. As their profits increased, slave merchants and their captains continued to look for fresh markets. North America, on the fringe of this expanding and infamous Atlantic system, represented a likely target. As the small mainland colonies grew and their trade with one another and with England increased, their capacity to purchase large numbers of new laborers from overseas expanded. By the end of the century, Africans were arriving aboard large ships directly from Africa as well as on smaller boats from the West Indies. In 1698, the monopoly held by England’s Royal African Co. on this transatlantic business came to an end, and independent traders from England and the colonies stepped up their voyages, intending to capture a share of the profits.

    On top of that, there was

    the mounting fear among colonial leaders regarding signs of discontent and cooperation among poor and unfree colonists of all sorts. Europeans and Africans worked together, intermarried, ran away together, and shared common resentments toward the well-to-do. Both groups were involved in a series of bitter strikes and servant uprisings among tobacco pickers in Virginia, culminating in an open rebellion in 1676. Greatly outnumbered by these armed workers, authorities were quick to sense the need to divide their labor force in order to control it. Stressing cultural and ethnic divisions would be one way to do that.

    Lifetime servitude could be enforced only by removing the prospect that a person might gain freedom through Christian conversion. One approach was to outlaw this traditional route to freedom. As early as 1664, a Maryland statute specified that Christian baptism could have no effect upon the legal status of a slave. A more sweeping solution, however, involved removing religion altogether as a factor in determining servitude.

    Therefore, another fundamental key to the terrible transformation was the shift from changeable spiritual faith to unchangeable physical appearance as a measure of status. Increasingly, the dominant English came to view Africans not as “heathen people” but as “black people.” They began, for the first time, to describe themselves not as Christians but as whites. And they gradually wrote this shift into their colonial laws. Within a generation, the English definition of who could be made a slave had shifted from someone who was not a Christian to someone who was not European in appearance. Indeed, the transition for self-interested Englishmen went further. It was a small but momentous step from saying that black persons could be enslaved to saying that Negroes should be enslaved.

    The article mentions a black family that gained its freedom mid century, and was given a far (in Northampton County VA on the Eastern Shore), and did fine and were “productive” as anyone else. By the end of the century, the family had moved to Maryland, but then disappeared from colonial records. “If we knew their fate, it might tell us more about the terrible transformation that was going on around them.”

    In the decades before 1700, therefore, the number of African arrivals began to increase, and the situation of African Americans became increasingly precarious and bleak. Sarah Driggus, an African American woman who had been born free during the middle of the 17th century, protested to a Maryland court in 1688 that she was now being regarded as a slave. Many others of her generation were feeling similar pressures and filing similar protests. But fewer and fewer of them were being heard. The long winter of racial enslavement was closing in over the English colonies of North America.

    So when people try to defend slavery as Biblical, or blacks owned slaves, whites were slaves, blacks sold other blacks into slavery, etc. the original “slavery” of the 1600’s (let alone way back in ancient Israel) was different from the slavery of the 1700’s to the 1860’s, which was now specifically directed at skin color, and had become ingrained in the economy, and retrospectively justified with making the skin color a “curse” in itself.

    This is when the “archetype” I’m discussing really gained ground and quickly took hold (as applied to skin color), seeming to fit perfectly as the most obvious justification. Where they were actually, ironically upgraded (in a way) from “barbarians” to a neutral color category, that “barbarian” designation would come right back stronger than ever, as further justification. Then, the negative stereotypes (that persist to today) to create fear (using skewed “facts”) would add to this.

    (I should point out, in passing regarding the Bible, that I could see some making an argument that “the Bible recognizes race difference”, by citing the “Ethiopian’s skin” in Proverbs. All that means is that the Ethiopians darkness stood out compared to most other people. It does not mean that the Biblical “chosen people” [the Israelites] were white as common illustrations assumed, nor does it say anything about any “curse”. It was just a visible difference [like the leopard’s spots], taken for granted, and nothing else made of it. So nothing else should be read into it).

    Making it more difficult, is that often, people condemning slavery condemn the whole institution from the 1600’s. Hence, the so-called “300 years” [i.e. 1600’s to 1900’s when this began to be spoken] you hear about in black discussions, or Malcolm X’s “Plymouth Rock landed on us”. It started out more racially neutral. (Though of course, the robbing of the land from the natives and killing most of them off was still evil, and hence, it would figure the evil would then continue to spread to the other “race” caught up in this conquest).

    But all of this should show, that if people want to single out blacks as a whole “culture” as so “problematic”, and moreso than should have been just given an experience of slavery in itself, it was not the first ones arriving as slaves in the first century of the colonies that created the problem, it was the political and financial motivation marking the whole century afterward, down to even the last 50 years, when people still opposed fiercely the people gaining full rights and freedoms. It was all about the almighty dollar, and creating division; not by progressives trying to give blacks undeserved “freebies” at everyone’s expense, but rather the corporate interests themselves.

  2. Examples of how this archetype has spread worldwide. When I used to hear of how Asians denigrated blacks, being that many of those Asians were at odds with the Western (“white”) world (like Japan as a major WWII enemy, and China being largely communist, and then the Arab world still fighting us), I thought aggravatedly, “well why do they believe what the white man says about us, then?!” The dynamic of an archetype explains why this has spread across the globe so apparently unhindered.
    Yet, it is part of the universal human “sin nature” (just as much as any sexual sin or wrong religious or political belief), and what the Church has long needed to be the one to address.

    7 Examples of How Blacks Are Discriminated Against in China
    http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/01/16/7-examples-of-how-blacks-are-discriminated-against-in-china/

    http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/01/08/8-worst-countries-black-people-travel/

    In the Facebook post of the first link (https://www.facebook.com/ATLBlackStar/posts/934403476694426), a commenter pointed out:

    This has some truth to it, but its a half truth thats got a lot of spin to it. Im prior Navy and I’ve had the opportunity to venture all over the Pacific. And I’ve seen one of two things happen in Asian countries

    A. They’re curious about you: The darker you are the more fascinated they are with you. Especially if you have natural hair. They’ve never seen people like us before so some want to know if you’re like what they see on T.V. most importantly if you’re into rap and hip-hop culture; because they love our fashion and music. When I lived in Japan, a Japanese woman was considered cool if she had a Black girlfriend. Many in the Asian culture have a lot of admiration for African Americans and Africans. I saw one of the biggest games of pick up Basketball when my ship pulled inport Hong Kong. They love Basketball and wanted to play with the brothers from the fleet.

    B. Most of the prejudices towards Black people comes from the much older generation. Which is pretty much the same every culture both stateside and abroad. We have just as much institutionalized racism here as there is over seas. In some cases it seems more extreme because its in a different culture and carried out different ways.

    Still, this positive “fascination” is part of what’s largely being reacted against now, such as the hair touching (done even by white girls here in America). It’s a “shadow” dynamic (the negative is merely the flipside of the positive).
    It’s about something “other”, and you have both a fascination with it, as well as a repulsion by it (like with the anima/animus and associated functional perspective). It can easily change from positive to negative. Doing away with the “other” sense to begin with, and accepting each other all as just human (with some interesting variations, perhaps) is the key to ending racism.

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