“Black or white”, “East or West” are not racially or culturally exhaustive.

Black (#000000) and white (#FFFFFF) are opposite colours, because they have opposite RGB values. As these colour names have been used as labels for racial categories, sometimes Americans make the mistake of thinking that black people and white people are opposite races, or that “black or white” is a racially inclusive term.

Although the United States’ history of slavery may be the origin of the false black-or-white racial dichotomy, the mapping of these racial labels on to colour analogues reinforces the notion that “black or white” is racially exhaustive.

A related phenomenon is the mapping of culture categories into “Eastern” and “Western” cultures. East and West are opposite cardinal directions, but people often make the mistake of thinking that “Eastern” cultures are the opposite of “Western” cultures, when the “Eastern world” and the “Western world” are arbitrary Eurocentric groupings, not natural kinds.

Terminology (XKCD)
(Terminology comic by XKCD)

The only thing that is common to all Western countries today is not geography and not technological development, but the fact that they are majority-white countries.

Many people (including psychologists) even think that if a phenomenon occurs in both a Western society and an East Asian one (since East Asia is the most East), then the phenomenon is “cross-cultural” and exhaustive of all possible cultures. They incorrectly assume that cultural variation lies on a one-dimensional continuum, with “East” on one end and “West” on the other, as if culture can be understood as cardinal directions, and by using a cultural sample size of 2.

People use colour language to discuss race, and cardinal direction language to discuss culture. However, people then perceive parallelisms between race and achromatic colours, and between culture and cardinal directions, that do not actually exist. Language affects thought, and in these cases, language encourages people to develop incorrect assumptions about racial and cultural realities.

About these ads

8 Responses to ““Black or white”, “East or West” are not racially or culturally exhaustive.”

  1. Therese Says:

    Well… since I’m in Australia, the Western world for me is Asia and the Eastern world would be the USA (or the fishies in the Pacific Ocean)… and you can’t even see Europe on the globe if you are looking at Australia, so I guess it doesn’t exist.

    As a designer I’ve always felt a bit uneasy referring to people as black (#000000) or white (#FFFFFF) (or yellow #FFFF00) because I think of actual real colours, ink and paint… (of course some people will say that means I’m in denial of racial dynamics of which I’m not, it just means that they are uneasy that I don’t think like them)

    And if “white” (meaning people of European descent) and “black” (meaning people of African descent) are “opposite races”… why are their points of (recent) origin so close to each other? ie. Europe and Africa…

  2. Raven’s Eye Says:

    [...] restructure warns us of the arbitrariness of words like ‘west’ and ‘east’ and ‘black’ and ‘white’ to describe the diversity of cultures and races in the world Many people (including psychologists) even think that if a phenomenon occurs in both a Western society and an East Asian one (since East Asia is the most East), then the phenomenon is “cross-cultural” and exhaustive of all possible cultures. They incorrectly assume that cultural variation lies on a one-dimensional continuum, with “East” on one end and “West” on the other, as if culture can be understood as cardinal directions, and by using a cultural sample size of 2. [...]

  3. Lxy Says:

    “Black or White” was a decent song, but I prefer Michael Jackson’s other work like “Human Nature,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” or the truly inspirational “Man in the Mirror.” :-)

  4. Restructure! Says:

    Here is the uncensored version of Black or White, with extensive crotch grabbing, vandalism, and rage at the end.

    Michael Jackson – Black or White (Full Uncut version)

    (You can start watching the video a little after the midway point.)

  5. Therese Says:

    @Restructure! – that full length video that you’ve just posted, shows MJ taking on the form of a Black Panther – I think that says a lot about some of his thoughts on his own racial identity…

    + the choreography is absolutely amazing!

  6. Restructure! Says:

    @Therese

    Yeah! The censored version of Black or White is basically people of different races happily singing kumbaya, but the uncut version shows him as an angry Black Panther.

    I thought that MJ had all the money in the world, and he could do whatever he wanted, but apparently the white execs still had the final say on what image MJ could convey and what kind of message he could get across.

  7. Kathy Says:

    Restructure,
    Thanks for posting the uncut version, I had no idea that it was cut.

    Thanks for your explanation of Eastern and Western, very thought provoking.

  8. “Easterners” are not collectivist automatons who are poor at analytical reasoning. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] “Black or white”, “East or West” are not racially or culturally exhaustive. by Restructure! [...]


Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers

%d bloggers like this: