Thursday, January 29, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch, racial colors, and political correctness: What should a Christian do?

Benedict Cumberbatch got into the hot seat when he referred to black people as colored:
Cumberbatch, 38, told Smiley: "I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the UK, and I think a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the UK, and that's something that needs to change." His comments were criticized by some observers on Twitter as being insensitive and out of touch. One user called Sonya Thomas asked: "Benedict Cumberbatch used the term 'coloured' to describe black actors. What year are we in?" (CNN)
A. Skin Color and Political Correctness

There may have been historical reasons why using the word colored for black men and women is taboo.  But I think we are going in circles:
The word "Negro" is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance. Negro denotes "black" in Spanish and Portuguese, derived from the ancient Latin word, niger, "black", which itself is probably from a Proto-Indo-European root *nekw-, "to be dark", akin to *nokw-, "night".[1][2] "Negro" superseded "colored" as the most polite word for African Americans at a time when "black" was considered more offensive.[3] This word was accepted as normal, including by people classified as Negroes, until the later Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s. One well-known example is the identification by Martin Luther King, Jr. of his own race as "Negro" in his famous speech of 1963, I Have a Dream. During the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some black American leaders in the United States, notably Malcolm X, objected to the word "Negro" because they associated it with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second class citizens, or worse.[4] (Malcolm X preferred "Black" to "Negro", but also started using the term "Afro-American" after leaving the Nation of Islam.)[5] (Wikipedia: Negro)
Isn't this crazy? "Colored" was superseded by the more polite word "Negro", because "Black" was considered more offensive at one time.  Even Martin Luther King Jr used proudly used the word "Negro." But later, Malcolm X objected to the word "Negro" and preferred "Black" instead.  It's crazy, really.

I think it is time for some objectivity here, lest we become color-blind. Human skin color ranges from black (Africans), red (American Indians), brown (Indo-Malay), yellow (Chinese/Japanese), white (Europeans).  Each race would have folk stories relating the supremacy of their race as defined by their skin color.  One example would be the Filipino creation mythology:
Another popular myth tells of the creation of the earth by gods and goddesses.  Marveling at the beauty of their masterpiece, they decided to fill the earth with human beings.  They got clay, molded it into their likeness, and baked them over a slow fire.  Some clay figures were baked too long and these turned out to be dark-skinned, others too pale, while the rest were baked just right.  The gods breathed life into the baked clay figures and there came the various races. In particular, the black race was the overbaked clay figures, the white race emerged from the underbaked clay figures, and the brown race, typically represented by the Filipinos, is the clay figures evenly baked.  (Philippine History Module-based Learning l' 2002 Ed.)
Classifying and naming people by the color of their skin is a legitimate scientific exercise.  Making a generalization about the level of intelligence of a person based on his skin color may be wrong, but describing a person by his skin color should be right. If we can discriminate the black from the red from the brown from the yellow and from the white, then our eyes are functioning well.  In fact, the human eye can discriminate 10 million colors! Do you wish that your web browser would be able to discriminate only 5 colors?  Do you wish that your printer would be able to discriminate only 5 colors? No, you want web browser and printer to discriminate 10 million colors!

B. So what should a Christian do?

There are three things that a Christian can do:

First, a Christian should not become a slave of political correctness and the fashions of the age. If a thing is black, we call it black.  If a thing is white, we call it white. As Christ said, "Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one." (Mt 5:37)

Second, a Christian should not mind whatever adjective is used to describe his skin color: black, red, brown, yellow, or white--whether these words are in Spanish or another language.  The words that come outside of us do not directly defile us, but the words that come from our own mouths.  As Christ said: "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. 19 * For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy." (Mt 15:18-19)

Third, a Christian should embrace his cross.  If the words hurled to us are hurtful, then we embrace the words as our cross and offer our sufferings to God. In this way, we share in Christ's passion, so that we may also share in his resurrection.  The Cross of Christ is truly a sign of contradiction: the cross is the instrument of suffering and death in the Roman Era, but Christ transformed the wood of the cross into the sign of salvation.
Benedict Cumberbatch: The Biography
Benedict Cumberbatch: The Biography
Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year
Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Penguin Modern Classics)
Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color
Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color
The Passion Of The Christ - Expanded 10th Anniversary (Limited Edition)
The Passion Of The Christ - Expanded 10th Anniversary (Limited Edition)