Monday, 29 September 2014

Code May Drive Modern Life, But The Colour Code Does Not.

Colour is a limiting descriptor

October is  Black History Month throughout the UK, but we should mind our language, because we are all more than just a colour!

In the old days it was Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Now we call it Science. In the old days , it was civil, mechanical and electronic engineering, now we call it Tech! In the old days
everything was colour coded including people, now the only code we talk of are the strings of instructions that drive programmes. Language should change to suit the needs, perceptions and understanding of the times.
Its time for the language describing people to change too. The idea of people as  "black", "white" or "brown" is just too limiting; way too yesterday to be meaningful. Once we impose a colour label on people we actually help create a problem we then have to solve. Invoke colour, and you invoke stereotypes based on recent political and social histories. In the hierarchy of modern times, white folk self perceive as superior , followed by the brown folk and orientals (once called Yellow - how cringe making is that ?),with the dear old black folk bringing up the rear at the foot of the totem pole of social worth. These stereotypes  prescribe how people should be perceived, and quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy in social and global outputs.



Different levels of worth according to the colour code

The lives of the rainbow coalition of humanity assume different levels of worth, and this is often reflected in official policy and its impacts in everything from the judicial system, through to international policy initiatives. So called "white" people seem to  behave as white people are expected to behave at one end,while black people do the same at the other. Even when they want to change, the tag of colour becomes an albatross round their respective necks.White people usually enjoying greater wealth and privilege, don't even notice others, until something goes seriously awry, like a riot, or a war! And until the parties read an article like this, all these dynamics seem to run in the background without anyone's conscious awareness or guidance. Its a kind of autopilot that few have front of mind at any time. Put Black people at the head of the totem pole and there is no reason to expect them to behave differently.  Nevertheless, the driver of behaviour is not colour for any group. Economics and the resulting politics are far more powerful drivers of behaviour than colour.

If you're not "black" or a council worker during October's "Black History Month", or an executive in an enterprise that's been approached for sponsorship of a "Black History Month" activity, it will likely fly blithely under your radar. The month has become an increasing non-event year on year and I'm sure the moniker we give it is in part to blame. I can see everyone shouting about Fashion Revolution, or Bringing Back our Girls or, Standing up for Cancer. I can't however, hear any but the die hard "community activists", long a dying breed, getting excited about Black History Month.



Geography is a far bigger driver of behaviour

 I'd be tagged as black , but the colour of my skin drives nothing in my life. Even the genes I carry and my physiology, are probably more the result of my geographical origins than my colour. Colour does not affect the way I think, the way I feel, or the way I behave. Those things are driven a lot more by where I've lived, the kind of upbringing I had, and a thousand formative experiences related more to time, place, geography, education and life philosophy. Thus I struggle with the value of the title "Black" History month. Its the wrong label. The label should have a lot more to do with the geography and history of the human ideas and histories recounted or reviewed in "Black History Month". 

The air war Britain is already involved in is abou
t economics and geo-politics. It is being framed as a religious war by those who need the PR mileage such framing confers. This would be analogous to say a hyper active thyroid being diagnosed as a nutritional problem because the victim presents with weight loss. Without the right language, we look for the wrong solutions and misdirect our efforts.

So forget the colour spectrum, I'm going for the human spectrum. Join me if you dare! Call it African Diaspora Month. Its far more descriptive, or can you suggest a better name?