I grew up 60+ years ago in a culture where black was the color you wore when someone died.
It is also true that black was considered an elegant color for women to wear, e.g., the little black sheathe for a cocktail party.
But somehow what really stuck with me was black = death.
I remember, in my adolescence, reading, in Time I think, that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (or was it Wilhemina?) said she wanted to be dressed in white for her funeral. I thought that was really cool, because it reflected her truth, and mine today, that death is not the end. However, that leads me to think I want to be dressed in my favorite colors (if there is a casket)–teal, purple, and pink.
But still people wear black to funerals, or at least dark colors, and people wear black arm bands to signify some deep sense of loss or despair or anger.
I have decided to change that for myself.
I am wearing black today to signify life. I am wearing black today, as part of “Black Lives Matter Sunday.” Black Is Beautiful. Black lives are beautiful. [The irony is that I am wearing a clerical collar for part of the day, and it is white–standing out against the rest of my clothing. I am thinking we need a black collar!]
There often is debate about whether black is a color or the absence of all color. In the science of optics, in the visible spectrum, black absorbs light and is thus the absence of color.
But still we see black. So it must be something. And because black absorbs light, we could say it is the wisest color, receiving and accepting all that is light and transforming it to black.
Whatever science says or does not say, I believe we–especially those of us who are white–must change our relationship with black. It is a social color even if scientists say it is not a color.
Healing our nation of nearly 400 years of overt and covert racism and white supremacy requires that we begin to truly value black.
I live in a city whose infrastructure was built on the backs of Black slaves and marginalized workers during Jim Crow, and where today, as in our whole country, the poverty rate among Black people is much higher than among white people (and the gap continues to grow). And of course, Black men die, due to police actions as well as to neighborhood violence, at an alarming rate. Among transgender persons, the rate of murder against Black women is many times that of others.
This is not due to something inherent or inborn in them. Sadly, however, many Black people have absorbed this negativity, too.
But the truth is that white people create this monster. And we are the ones who can stop it.
I am starting here: Black = Life.