Using The Word Dark and Racism

I was driving listening to well known, well liked, remarkably able Larry Mantle on KPCC doing a segment on suicide where people called in and some professionals spoke. One of the professionals from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a respected center, kept using the word dark when speaking about the place most people with suicidal ideation find themselves in. Then Larry Mantle in summarizing what she had said repeated the idea of being in a dark place in relation to being suicidal. I acknowledge that the term communicated what it intended to. But the words bad, negative, murky or painful would have done just as well.

I do believe that we need to monitor our use of the word dark. When we use it with subjective overtones, directly or not, unconsciously or not, we are saying it’s not a good thing to be dark.  Then we must ask ourselves if we are somehow implying that people of color are dark and dark is undesirable so therefore people of color may also be undesirable. And that would mean that we might as well be saying that racism is ok. Used in that way the use of the word dark sustains racism.  I realize Larry Mantle or the therapist or many who use the word dark do not intend to be racist. But nevertheless our use of the word dark when another word would do reinforces institutional and societal ways we look at race, and if anything subtly reinforces the racial divide. So let’s be careful how we use the word dark. The night is dark. That’s a fact. The color black is darker than the color red, that’s a fact. Let’s stick to the use of the word dark in factual contexts and not inject any judgment into it.

P.S. unless it’s to say black is beautiful

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