Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Why are bad incidents describe as Black?

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 27, 2014

As the entire world mourns the sad and unfortunate disappearance of Malaysian flight MH 370 with 239 human beings on board and still unaccounted for as of this writing, it is apropos to discuss the use of the word, albeit adjective, Black, to describe/label certain incidents.

For example, when the American Stock Market crashed on Monday, 19 October 1987, that calamity/catastrophe was described/labelled by the media as "Black Monday" and that day was "ranked with the blackest days of the great crash of 1929."

Furthermore, in 1988 when several Americans were accused of defrauding the Defense Department out of possible billions of dollars in regard to irregularities in defense procurement contracts, the media described that structural incident as a "Black hole." And in mid-November 1989, when Charles Keating was accused of stealing as much as $1.5 billion from his Lincoln Savings & Loan Association, the conclusion was that "Lincoln dropped into a regulatory black hole" and Charles Keating was described as a "financial black beard."

And even when snow on America's interstate highways, streets, roads, bridges, etc, may portend something bad to happen, suddenly, it is labelled "Black ice." In addition, whenever the 13th of any month falls on a Friday, suddenly, it becomes "Black Friday."

Indeed, another serious troubling scenario in which the color Black is assigned involves a plane's Flight Data Recorder. Now, when the plane takes off, the original colors of this instrument are orange and yellow. However, not wishing, when the plane crashes and/or disappears as in the current case of MH 370, then, suddenly, this original orange and yellow colored instrument is described as a "Black Box." In addition, even if the Flight Data Recorder instrument is severely mutilated/damaged/destroyed, it is still orange and yellow in color.

Why, then, is it described as a "Black Box".

The fact of the matter is that conventional wisdom has it that when something goes array; when something does not function in the positive way it is supposed to function; when something negative happens; when there is a calamity/catastrophe; when the law is broken, etc, then, the label/adjective Black is used to describe such incidents.

Indeed, now that an African-American, a Black man, Barack Obama, has been elected and re-elected as the 44th President of the United States of America, now is the time for all Americans, in general, but all those in the multidimensional aspects of the media, in particular, to be a bit more cautious and sensitive and voluntarily refrain from using the label "Black" to describe bad things/accidents/incidents.

Moreover, all citizens of the international community need to heed the poignant but apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as follows: "Now the judgement of God is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we are all going to perish together as fools."

In the final analysis, now is the most opportune time for the entire international community to describe bad, unfortunate human incidents/accidents according to their stark reality rather than designate such particular incidents/accidents along skin color lines.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

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