What the dictionary teaches us

February 2, 2010

If you look up “black” in Merriam-Webster, you will find this: of the color black, having dark skin, hair, and eyes, dirty/soiled, thoroughly sinister or evil, connected with or invoking the supernatural and especially the devil,  very sad, gloomy, or calamitous, characterized by hostility or angry discontent. Definition of \”black\”

If you look up “white” in Merriam-Webster, you will find the following: free from color, of the color of new snow or milk, free from spot or blemish as in “free from moral impurity” or innocent.  At the top of the definition you will also find an ad link for Skin Hyperpigmentation? Top Creams and Treatments. Skinlightenerstudy.com. (or something similar; it changes with different viewings) Definition of \”white\”

These definitions tell me I’d never want to be black; white is the way to go.  And, if I’m not white or white enough, I should address that with top creams and treatments so I may become more white.

This is what the New York Times says about skin lighteners:

Dermatologists nationwide are seeing women of Hispanic and African descent, among others, with severe side effects . . . Dermatologists with practices that cater to darker-skinned women say adverse effects are on the rise. . . Long-term use of a whitening cream with topical steroids can lead to hypertension, elevated blood sugar and suppression of the body’s natural steroids. Risks of skin-lightening creams

One product is called “Fair & White.” The skin of one whitening cream user became so thin a touch could cause a bruise. The cultural value on whiteness yields destructive powers. Dr. Glenn, president of the American Sociological Association, emphasizes in the same article:

It is not as if dark-skinned women are imagining a bias . . . sociological studies have shown among African-Americans and also Latinos, there’s a clear connection between skin color and socioeconomic status. It’s not some fantasy. There is prejudice against dark-skinned people.

The dictionary teaches us  how pervasive and destructive whiteness can be when it controls the framing of our language.   How often I have used “black” as a modifier to frame negative things; it’s what I’ve been taught by the dictionary and my culture.  No more. No more.


  1. […] etc. Must come with the color; black magic, black arts (ala Harry Potter) and all.  Check out White Matters for more on Black and White. I believe these folks.  I believe God spoke to them and speaks to […]

  2. […] Previous post with article about whitening cream health hazards […]

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