Posted on July 23, 2008

Is ‘Black Hole’ Really a Racist Term?

Julia Gorin, Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 2008

Did you know “black hole” is now a racist term?

I didn’t and neither, apparently, did Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield. {snip}


Taking offense at an astronomy term may sound ludicrous, but it’s merely an outgrowth of the widespread belief that the English language—along with its countless metaphors and figures of speech—is racially biased and therefore must be defanged.

When her son, Ennis, was killed by a Ukrainian member of a Latino gang in L.A., Camille Cosby (wife of Bill Cosby) penned an Op-Ed saying that America had taught her son’s killer to hate and cited negative associations that American society and language pin to the word “black.”

“America’s educational institutions’ dictionaries,” she wrote, “define ‘black’ as harmful; hostile; disgrace; unpleasant aspects of life. ‘White’ is described as ‘decent; honorable; auspicious; without malice.’ ”

She’s got a point: black sheep, dark humor, Black Tuesday—the list goes on. But is the racial burden of word associations really so black and white? {snip} Take casinos. Would you rather be holding a stack of white chips in your hand, or a stack of black chips? The black chip is worth $100; the white chip, $1.

Next, what color clothes do most women prefer to wear—black or white? Black is thinning; white is the opposite—and often a no-no. In Karate, would you rather be a black belt or white belt?

WHAT?! You’re wearing white shoes after Labor Day? You must be a freak! Indeed, there are only three months out of the year during which it’s acceptable for a woman to wear white shoes. And for a man? Only black men can pull off wearing white shoes. Meanwhile, black-tie affairs are the epitome of class and elegance.

In earlier times, the blacksmith was the center of any town’s economy. Today, note the derision in the tone with which the phrase “white-collar crime” slithers off the tongue of anyone speaking it. Not that we should whitewash the issue. After all, with fewer white-collar criminals abusing the system, more of us would be in the black.


[Editor’s Note: You can read about this silly “black hole” controversy in AR News articles starting here.]