Putting a chaotic subject in order begins an understanding of interrelationships within that subject. The meanings inside the word "Black" are in great chaos. For example, the statement that "All Blacks look alike" generates meanings to Whites that are quite different from those of Blacks; or, the phrase: "The Black Experience" is quite different for different classes of Blacks. The purpose of the following discussion is to show an approach for dealing with such chaos. If one gathers many of the almost infinite number of words pertaining to the word "black," then it will be clear that such wide spread applications of the meanings of the word "black" makes it an Umbrella Term (i.e. various meanings are under one term's canopy) and each meaning can be classified variously. General categories related to ‘black' include the Spiritual Realm; the Neutral Realm; the Negative Realm; and the Destructive Realm. Inside the Negative and Destructive Realms are several subcategories. One subcategory reflects the ideas, character and behaviors Europeans have as part of their tradition. For example, European ideas of death and mourning are symbolized by black. In figurative use ‘black' has traditionally implied foreboding, evil, or melancholy. In addition, several Oriental nations use "black" as a badge of servitude, slavery, and low birth. A second subcategory reflects the ideas, character and behaviors Europeans possess as part of their tradition but have, for the most part, been projected on to Black people. A third is the derogatory meanings designed specifically for Black people. A fourth is the subcategory where demeaning terms are used by certain Black people on themselves as a result of their brainwashing by Europeans.
Two useful approaches to specifically classifying "Black" (or any complex subject) are called "Lumpers" (to simply get the gist of the topic so as to move out of confusion) and "Splitters" (which is about Precision Thinking). To elaborate, let us use the Thinker's Scale (a Positive and Negative Scale separated by a Zero). On the Positive scale are meanings related to things of Worth and of the Spiritual. At the Zero position are meanings simply descriptive of what something is. On the negative scale are varied meanings that start with ‘mild' negatives and progress toward ‘extreme' destructive meanings–and with increasing degrees of putrid atmospheres associated with them. The Splitter Approach deals with "Black" by denotation or connotation or both; by good, bad, and neutral (e.g. as a color) denotations and connotations; and by placing on all planes of existence the meanings of Black on the metaphorical ladder extending from the earth world to the heavens.
By contrast, the Lumper Approach is a "rule of thumb" process for those desiring a general idea about a subject and that will allow them to use easy to understand information. A fun example is illustrated by dividing the gathered meanings of "Black" into the "Shirt and Tie" (or formal) words (usually good meanings) and the "T-Shirt" (informal and usually rude meanings) words. Just as the masses prefer informal to formal dress, so it is that informal speech is predominant-and this is how "Black" is used by Whites who are insensitive to what is significant to Black People or who do not care or who deliberately try to cause harm. Of course, in between the "Shirt and Tie" and the "T-Shirt" categories is a tremendously big third category of Misfits. Whereas Lumpers simply disregard Misfits, Splitters find them to be of great significance because any one item inside the Misfit category might be the beginning of a new category or the link that ties a process together. Misfit examples are meanings of Black that symbolize such things as the unknown, the shadow of something, the mysteries of your subconscious mind, or esoteric realms of deep planes.
Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.