Black, bold and beautiful: The unashamed ‘B’ word

Jayda Ragas, Herald Contributor

Before you start thinking too much in the wrong direction –– no, I’m not referring to the ‘B’ word that you probably think I am –– but with the way this particular word is handled, you would think that it’s just as bad.

If I were to ask you to describe the physical appearance of someone of English descent, for example, you would most likely say that they are white, because that is, in fact, the color of their skin. If I were to ask you to describe someone of African descent –– would you hesitate? Fumble for whatever words you may believe or have been taught to believe are the “right” ones? Just like you said “white”, you can just as easily say “black”. Despite what so many people think, it’s not offensive.

I’ve had more than one person preface a sentence by turning to me and saying, “no offense” and then proceed to refer to a black person in a harmless story that is impossible to take offense to. I am always baffled when this happens, but I think I understand more now. Because I’m black, people think that using that word will somehow offend me. People have been taught or have subconsciously learned through society to walk on eggshells when it comes to ethnicity. I understand why. Racism is still so present in our society and always will be, but it’s evident that we’re not handling it the way we’re supposed to. No one should be afraid to use the word “black” to describe someone who is black.

Everyone should be taught that saying “black” is actually socially acceptable and is far less offensive than saying “African-American.” This surprised me until it was explained that it’s more disrespectful to assume that someone is a descendant of Africa, when they could also be from Haiti or Jamaica, or anywhere else where black people primarily live. “African-American” is often the term used as a substitute because people think that saying “black” is wrong, offensive, and disrespectful. I wish everyone could understand that in no way is it unacceptable to describe someone as black. Our society needs to work towards addressing the ignorance that prevails in the realm of race and ethnicity.