Arvindus

Contemplationam

The Black-White Opposition

Preface

This publication regards a translation from Dutch. Where deemed possible the Dutch words for 'black' and 'white' ('zwart' and 'wit') have been replaced by English words and where deemed necessary they have been maintained.

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When Spanish and Portuguese made contact with the inhabitants of Africa they gave them the term 'negro', which in their languages simply indicates a blackness or darkness. In Dutch this term for indicating ethnic Africans was adopted, after which it corrupted to 'neger'.1, 2 In English the word 'negro' was maintained,3 although also the term 'neger' was used with a pejorative connotation4 and it is not unthinkable that the same happened in the Dutch language, with the difference that there the use of the neutral 'negro' disappeared. The etymological root of 'negro' is eventually found in the Latin word 'niger', which just as the aforementioned also indicates a blackness or darkness.5 Later also the Dutch word 'nikker' came in use, as in English the word 'nigger'. Both words have a strong pejorative connotation.6, 7

For indication of ethnic Europeans was in Dutch the word 'blanke' used,8 which is related to the word 'blank' which indicates a colourlessness,9 and 'blanco' which indicates a not being filled in.10 These words find their root in the proto-Germanic 'blanka', which refers to a light colouration, a whiteness or a shining.11, 12 From the same etymological source are the Spanish 'blanco' and the Portuguese 'branco' used for indication of ethnic Europeans.13 In English the word 'blank' is in use to indicate whiteness or an emptiness (as with an empty sheet of paper),14 but for indicating ethnic Europeans there the word 'white' is used.15 This word 'white' is also used for indication of the colour white,16 and shares with the Dutch word 'wit' its etymological roots in the proto-Germanic 'hwita,17 although a deeper Indo-European root is probable, given the relation with the Sanskrit word 'sveta', which also refers to the colour white.18

After the colonial period and the acknowledged equal rights for citizens of all ethnicities in the Western countries the words 'nikker' and later 'negro' (in English 'nigger' and later 'negro') were consciously brought into unuse in official use of language because they would be charged due to the history of slavery. Outside the official use of language the words did stay in use. In the English language were 'nigger' and 'negro' replaced by the word 'black', and in the Dutch language were 'nikker' and 'neger' replaced by the word 'zwart'. Thus English speakers came to speak of 'blacks' and 'whites' and Dutch speakers of 'zwarten' and 'blanken'.

In recent years Afro-emancipators have in the Dutch language area however fought to replace the word 'blank' as indication for ethnic Europeans by the word 'wit'. The word 'blank' would too be charged because it would indicate a purity and a non-besmirchedness because of which ethnic Europeans would be considered as pure, against the background of which ethnic Africans then would be considered as impure. Recently the media executed this change and are ethnic Africans indicated with 'zwart' and ethnic Europeans with 'wit'.

The above mentioned preciseness with regards to the use of certain words follows the thought that consciousness is also formed by use of language. Words can have in different contexts different meanings, but carry nevertheless implicitly the whole of their meanings. This is a thought which corresponds with the contemplative etymology or etymosophy.19 The word 'blank' is according to Afro-emancipators used to indicate a European ethnicity, but carries at the same time the connotation of purity and non-besmirchedness, with that mentioning ethnic Europeans implicitly as such.

The above argumentation can be considered as valid, until the word 'blank' is replaced by the word 'wit'. For 'wit' carries much more than 'blank' positive connotations with regards to personality characteristics. For instance with the mentioning of 'a blank [blanke] magician' we think [in Dutch] probably of an ethnic European magician while with the mentioning of 'a white [witte] magician' we probably think [in Dutch] of a pure magician. The by the Afro-emancipators chosen replacement word 'wit' may then be considered as remarkable.

Now it is so that the Dutch Afro-emancipation movement is strongly influenced by that from the United States, for instance through the in the Netherlands popular American rap music wherein a social repression of 'blacks' by 'whites' is sung. From that influence among Afro-Dutch an identification takes place with Afro-Americans, and the relations between ethnic Africans and ethnic Europeans in the United States is projected on the relations as they are in the Netherlands. It is therefore also that the filmed death of an Afro-American citizen by the actions of a Euro-American police officer led to so much upheaval with the Dutch Afro-emancipation movement. It is therefore also that Afro-Dutch mix so much English in their use of Dutch language. And it is then also very likely that the in the United States used English ethnic distinguishing of 'blacks' and 'whites' by the Dutch Afro-emancipation movement is projected in the Dutch language as 'zwarten' and 'witten'. For 'zwart-wit' is a more literal translation of 'black-white' than 'zwart-blank'.

Now the black-white relation regards a radical opposition. This is so when black and white are considered as opposite colours, but also when they are figuratively considered. The black-white thinking is a thinking which allows no nuance but thinks in radical oppositions.20 The use of terms like 'black' and 'white' to refer to ethnicities then can be named 'radical racial'. This we see happen in the United States and also in the Netherlands. 'White' refers to ethnic Europeans and whoever does not belong to that ethnicity is gathered under 'black'. This while people have almost never a radical black or white colour. Considered from the theory that consciousness is influenced by use of language it shall also be clear that the use of 'black' and 'white' for indication of ethnicity shall contribute to a radical racial thought. The use of the opposed poles 'black-white' shall contribute to polarisation of ethnic Europeans and ethnic Africans (or ethnic non-Europeans), and the use of this oppositional pair shall contribute to oppositional relations between the aforementioned ethnicities.

Because the use of 'black' and 'white' for indication to ethnicities as mentioned above leads to polarisation it is better to not apply these words anymore in this function. Ethnic black-white thought leads to polarisation and polarisation leads to battle. The abolishment of the polarity of black and white people however can lead to unification and unity. The mentioning of ethnicity is also not always needed. Sometimes it can have a function and an importance, but in such cases it is better to use less radical terms. There are enough alternatives. One can for instance speak about 'ethnic Africans', 'ethnic Europeans', 'Afro-Dutch', 'Euro-Dutch', 'Moroc-Dutch', 'Moroccan Dutch', etcetera. To divide citizens in the two poles of black and white does not do right to the enormous diversity in skin colours and ethnicities and only leads to polarisation and segregation. For unification and integration of societies it is wise to use other, non-polar, terminologies.

Notes
  1. Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, Ke-R, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 412.
  2. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Spaans Nederlands, zoeksoftware, versie 1.0, Van Dale Lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2003, negro.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), Oxford University Press, 2009, Negro.
  4. Ibidem, neger.
  5. Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford University Press, London, 1968, p. 1176.
  6. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Hedendaags Nederlands, zoeksoftware, versie 2.0, Van Dale Lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2002, nikker.
  7. Oxford English Dictionary, nigger, n.
  8. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Hedendaags Nederlands, blanke.
  9. Ibidem, blank.
  10. Ibidem, blanco.
  11. Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, A-E, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 324.
  12. Van Dale Groot etymologisch woordenboek, De herkomst van onze woorden, Van Dale Uitgevers, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 1997, p. 102.
  13. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Spaans Nederlands, blanco.
  14. Oxford English Dictionary, blank, a.
  15. Ibidem, white, a, 4.
  16. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Engels-Nederands Nederlands-Engels, Zoeksoftware, versie 2.0, Van Dale lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2002, white.
  17. Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, S-Z, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 631.
  18. Ibidem.
  19. 'Contemplationam, Etymologie en Etymosofie Uiteengezet', Index: 201602272.
  20. Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Hedendaags Nederlands, zwart-wit.
Bibliography
  • 'Contemplationam, Etymologie en Etymosofie Uiteengezet', Index: 201602272.
  • Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, A-E, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009.
  • Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, Ke-R, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009.
  • Marlies Philippa, et alii (redacteuren), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, S-Z, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford University Press, London, 1968.
  • Van Dale Groot etymologisch woordenboek, De herkomst van onze woorden, Van Dale Uitgevers, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 1997.
  • Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Engels-Nederands Nederlands-Engels, Zoeksoftware, versie 2.0, Van Dale lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2002.
  • Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Hedendaags Nederlands, zoeksoftware, versie 2.0, Van Dale Lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2002.
  • Van Dale Groot Woordenboek Spaans Nederlands, zoeksoftware, versie 1.0, Van Dale Lexicografie bv, Utrecht / Antwerpen, 2003.