Menu Close


black sin colors

Race is a social construct used to sort people into groups according to skin color, birth parents, geography, melanin levels, and DNA. As a child in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Sunday school, I was taught with the song Jesus Loves the Little Children to categorize people as red, yellow, black, and white. Later, the brown skin tone was added to the ditty.

Video Link

Recently, MSNBC host Joy Reid educated a C-Span caller about the use of words such as negro and Black.

The caller asked:

Around the time of Medgar Evers, you know, you had the signs of, you know, Negroes and colored people, this and, you know, all of that. Why are we still using the synonym Black? There are no Black people. If we’re going to start calling immigrants that come through the border brown people, let’s call the brown people, all the brown people, brown people and, like, really take hold of the narrative instead of, like, I don’t know if people have actually looked up the color black in the dictionary, It’s not something, why would you want to call your children that?

The caller also argued that black means “darkness, void,” saying “You know, that’s part of the discrimination. We are not black people. We are brown.” (It seems to me the caller was Black.)

Reid, who is Black, replied:

Because the term Negro was, is a made up term that was made up by white supremacists in order to label Black people who came from multiple ethnic groups and throw them all together. So when Africans were taken in slavery to America, you’re mixing tribes that had no genetic relationship other than all being Negro. And so the idea of whiteness and blackness was invented in America. It didn’t exist before the 16th century. No white people in Europe who are all different ethnicities, whether they’re Italian or Greek or British or German, they didn’t call themselves white.

And so when people reclaimed the term black in the 1960s, it was because they had decided to empower themselves. It was a term that felt to them more powerful than simply using the term Negro, which had been invented by enslavers. So I don’t see any problem with black. Black is a term that can mean power. It can mean beauty. It doesn’t have to mean darkness and horror.

Much like with preferred pronouns, when I want to know how a person wants to be identified, I ask them. Now, that’s a novel thought, right? 🙂 I don’t assume how they self-identify. I grew up in a home and a generation where it was normal to call Blacks negroes or niggers. Mexicans were called spicks and Asians were called slant eyes or mongoloids. My parents were Jesus-loving, John Birch-supporting racists, and so was I well into adulthood. I regret being so, my only justification being that was how I was raised, that was what was modeled to me, and it was the only thing I knew. When you know better, you do better — or you should anyway.

As a writer, I want to properly and accurately identify people. Years ago, a gay person educated me about how the words homosexual or homosexuality, much like words such as sodomy and sodomite, are generally viewed as slurs. Knowing this, I stopped using the words unless I’m describing the views of Evangelical bigots. I now use the LGBTQ acronym or what the individual letters mean.

As far as I can ascertain, I have never had a lot of Black readers. Some, but not many. When I wanted to know whether I should use the terms African-American or Black, I contacted my Black readers and asked them what they preferred. To the person, they said they preferred to be identified as Black. Several of them yearned for a world where we didn’t divide people according to skin color, but as long as they were going to be identified in this way, they wanted to be called Black. And that’s what I have done going forward.

Black when referring to someone’s race should be capitalized. Carolyn and I discussed this issue, concluding that if we are going to capitalize Black we should also capitalize White. And so it is. The goal is to not only accurately identify people, but to also identify them as they personally self-identify or in the manner that their community as a whole self-identifies.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


  1. Avatar

    One of my granddaughters is very white except she is also Chinese. She has albinism and has no melanin at all. Yes, she’s adopted.

    And if the person who called Joy Reid said there were no black people, then s/he has never been to Africa. Some Africans are really, really dark

  2. Avatar

    Bruce I remember when Black people were Negroes. I remember the first Negro person I ever saw. He was a huge black Jamaican friend of my Father. He was indeed black and not brown. Mohammad Ali described him when he spoke about native Africans he met who were “so black they were blue”. He was one of the workers who came to work in the USA during WW2. Bryan was still a sundown town so no idea where he lived but he and my Father were friends, and we all sat together at Mikes Tavern for a drink. My Father was very liberal and never met a stranger regardless of color or anything else and I dare say he was the one person in Bryan our Black friend could sit down with for a beer. He used to save me Jamaican stamps from his mail from home. He was my first Black friend but not my last. My Father said we Dutch were also Black but we were black on the inside. I think it was a comment on our being outsiders, not belonging here.

  3. Avatar

    I just try to call people what they want to be called. I am still unclear what people from Spanish-speaking nations want to be called, so I try to stay away from that. We’re still constantly reminding my father-in-law to say “Asian” instead of “Oriental” or “Chinaman”.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Not so long ago, all LGBTQ people were lumped together as “gay”—even by members of the LGBTQ community. That caused consternation and confusion for those who are cisgender heterosexuals—and embarrassment and worse for trans people like me.

    As an example , early in my gender affirmation (commonly called “gender transition “) process, I visited someone in another city. That person made a list of the gay bars—which never have interested me.

    A more serious situation occurred when I made a discrimination complaint to HR. Its director claimed it was not possible because “there are other gay people in your department.” I tried to explain that a.) trans and gay are not the same and b,) some gay men and lesbians are just as transphobic as some Fundamentalist Christians.

    As for race: The human race began in Africa. I, who look about as White as anyone can, have 5 percent African blood. Moreover, although most of my ancestry is Southern European and Middle Eastern, I am taken for á Northern or Central European. (In a Polish enclave near me, people sometimes walk up to me and talk in their native language.)

    For all of that, I have the privilege of, in most situations, not having to identify myself racially . So, while I enjoy what their cultures have to offer, I don’t have the need to band with members of other European ethnicities, That is why I understand people of African ancestry—whether they’re from the Americas, Europe, Africa or some other place—feel the need to identify as Black. Not only their skin color, but also their histories, have thrust them into a similar struggle that is not shared by, and between White ethnic groups like, say, the Irish and Hungarians. (“Black” is used even in non-English speaking countries like France and Germany that have sizable African populations. lThat said, I think it behooves us to better understand the cultural and other differences between, say, the great-great grandchildren of American slaves and a newly arrived immigrant from Burkina Faso—who might be living a couple of doors apart in the Bronx!

  5. Avatar

    I grew up in the 70’s, when Black was becoming the common term. I was told that Negro and colored were outdated. When I used to be on Twitter, I encountered many people from countries with mixed populations who disliked the term African – American when applied to them. They were Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, even Afro-Scottish. Many preferred Black when not referring to their national origin.
    Bruce, you are right about asking people what they prefer. I am Hispanic, and it makes my skin crawl when the media and politicians say LatinX. Every Hispanic person I know, and most I knew from Twitter hate the label. Yet, the majority is ignored to cater to a far left few. On government paperwork, I am Hispanic or White of Hispanic origin, because that’s the only thing to check off. Personally, I am Chicano. LatinX? Meaningless to me.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Discover more from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Bruce Gerencser