Yes You Are Black

You may have seen a video that’s been floating around Facebook for a few years. It starts out with the tantalizing phrase “I am not black.”

Here’s a link to the video on YouTube , and here’s a link to the artist’s (Prince EA) webpage .

It’s a compelling little video, definitely worth watching, but with both eyes open! It is a huge mix of great and horrible. There is truth in it, and there are massive and dangerous lies in it. I figured as an exercise for myself, as well as for instruction, I would deconstruct this video and in the process, show you how to do worldview analysis!

I transcribed the whole video, so you can read the whole thing here. I will be pulling out quotes from it, but I encourage you to read or listen to the whole thing first in context. Anything bolded and in quotes is directly from the video. Also, spoiler alert, I’m white. If you’re going to say I’m not allowed to analyze a person’s truth claims in the video because I’m white, or my opinions and arguments are invalid merely because I’m white (and not because you have a logical reason that such an opinion or argument would be invalid), then you’re racist. Having predetermined bias for or against someone because of the color of their skin is the definition of racism… and it’s kind of the whole point of this video… so maybe give it a watch, then read the analysis carefully, THEN comment or tell me how wrong I am. But definitely do all three of those things before commenting. Please and thank you.

ANALYSIS

It starts out with something that’s obviously meant to shock. “I am not black.” Since it’s being spoken by a black man, this catches the attention and it should immediately make you think, “Welllllll…. what do you mean by ‘black?’ Because you obviously are black as we all understand it.” We begin to get an answer to this question with the line “No I was taught to be black.” Ahhh… so in his mind, “Being black” means more than simply “having skin with much darker pigmentation than that portion of the population we would colloquially call ‘white.’” In his mind, “being black” is a learned quality, which means, in his mind, some intangible or invisible quality accompanies “being black,” be it a behavior, an ideology, or a culture. This should immediately prompt the question, “Why?” Why does “black” as a descriptive label in his mind involve more than the color of his skin? Is that claim legitimate? I’ll tip my hand and say I don’t think it is. You can, and I think we SHOULD be able to describe someone by their skin color, and only be communicating the color of their skin, and not anything else about them. You aren’t taught to be the color of your skin, you are taught to adopt certain behaviors, ideologies, and cultures. You are often taught this by people of the same skin color as you, since you are often born to parents of the same skin color as you, however, the skin color in question actually has nothing to do with it, white, black, brown, or however else you want to describe your skin color.

It becomes clearer that he’s not actually referring to the color of his skin, but to his behavior, ideology, and culture as not “black” as he continues to clarify his point with his first major assertion. “It’s just a label. See from birth the world force feeds us these labels, and eventually we all swallow them.” Okay, so he’s claiming that the world force feeds “labels” to people that they all swallow. This statement should make you think, “Okay…. what do you mean by ‘label?’ Define it please.” I’ll go ahead and give my definition of label based on the context he’s given: a word or phrase used to describe a person, place, or thing, probably referring to physical traits.

He continues “But there’s one problem. Labels are not you and labels are not me. Labels are just labels.” This is a truth claim I think everyone can get on board with, as vapidly pointless as it is in this day and age. It is very true that ‘labels’ are not the same thing as people themselves. Anyone who believes they are is an idiot, and most everyone in society recognizes their idiocy for what it is. And “labels are just labels” is a true statement, but not really worth saying. Sort of like “I have a nose.”

“But who we truly are is not skin deep.” No argument, though I might want to know what you mean by “truly.” Again, anyone who believes they know who someone “truly” is by looking at their skin is a complete moron. Prince EA, so far you have said mostly true things that really don’t need to be said to the general public. They might need to be said to particular idiots who deny these basic statements about reality… but I get the feeling you might mean something more than the plain meaning of your words indicates.

Then he gets into some dicey waters with his first big metaphor. “See when I drive my car, no one would ever confuse the car for me. Well when I drive my body, why do you confuse me for my body? It’s my body. Get it? It’s not me. Let me break it down. See, our bodies are just cars that we operate and drive around.” Major truth claim, and one that needs to be carefully understood. He’s saying that his identity, his true being, the thing that makes him him, his his-ness, is entirely independent of his physical body.

That is directly contradictory to the Christian worldview.

The Bible does teach that there is a material and an immaterial man, body and soul (or if you prefer a trichotomous view, body, soul, and spirit), but it teaches that these inner and outer beings are inextricably linked. They are united together and cannot be separated from one another. We see these two things get joined together in Genesis 2:7. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” God FIRST formed the body, and THEN breathed in the breath of life, (and I think you can legitimately say the “breath of life” is the “soul” here). At that point, material and immaterial, the inner and outer man, became one, together.

Your inner being is dependent on your outer being, and your outer being is dependent on your inner being. You cannot separate the two and suggest that your body is nothing more than a “car” that the real you drives around, completely irrelevant to defining “who you truly are.” According to the Bible, it just doesn’t work that way. He almost recognizes this when he says “…we were forced to own these cars for the rest of our lives. Forgive me but I fail to see the logic or pride in defining myself or judging another by the cars we drive.” Oh, so close.

Yes, we are forced to be in the bodies given to us. Talk to some burn victims, or amputees, or people with progeria and you’ll learn pretty quickly that no one gets to decide the body with which they are born. It is part of them.

He misses the mark in “failing to see the logic or pride in defining myself… by the cars we drive.” (Yes, I left out three words, I’ll come back). You fail to see the logic in defining yourself by what you are? Where does that logic break down for you? Definitions are essential to existence. Without definitions, words mean nothing. Your body needs to be understood and rightly “defined,” (I would prefer the word “described”) otherwise, you don’t have a full enough picture of who you are. I agree with the “or judging another” phrase, meaning I agree that judging someone based on the appearance of their material being is folly.

Yes, your physical characteristics are real and objective. Prince EA, you are black. That might not be the absolute clearest way to communicate the observation that your skin is a darker shade than my skin, but it’s one of the most succinct and easily understandable ways of communicating that fact. You are black, Prince EA. However, when I say the words “you are black” I am merely making a factual statement about the pigmentation of your skin, and making no kind of a value judgment based on the fact that you’re black. I tend to think that a man’s actions and beliefs should be the basis on which you judge him, not his melanin, head size, or body type, and I tend to think that people who mean more than that by the phrases “you are black” or “you are white” are either being unclear or being stupid. “Judging” here, needs defining as well. When I say I don’t “judge” someone or make a “value judgment” based on their skin color, I mean that I do not believe them to be a better or worse, more valuable or less valuable, more likable or less-likable, person based on their physical appearance. Their actions and beliefs determine those factors. (I DO necessarily judge them, in that I recognize there is a difference between their physical appearance and my physical appearance, a difference that does not inherently affect their worth, but a difference nonetheless. Not to “judge” in that sense would be idiotic.)

He sums up this whole fallacy about the separation of the material and immaterial man in his next phrase. “Because who we truly are is found inside.” Again, yes and no. Who you truly are, is dependent on the inner man, but it is ALSO dependent on the outer man. Your physical body DOES define you to a degree. Not entirely. Similarly, your spirit/soul DOES define you to a degree. Not entirely. You are not a body-less spirit. You are not even an embodied spirit. If the Bible is true, you are an emspirited body. God formed the physical man first, then breathed into him the breath of life. You cannot separate the two.

The fact that you are a complete man, immaterial AND material, is essential to the Christian doctrines of sin and salvation. It was in actions and will that man fell, he took actions with his material driving by the desires of his immaterial, and his body and soul both received death as a result. The spirit of Christians has been made new, and Christians believe that the body of believers will also be made new. We are not headed to a spiritual realm called heaven where we float around on clouds. We are headed to a physical realm, called the new earth, where we will live, and eat, and drink, and walk, and run. Physicality is a good thing. To quote C.S. Lewis from I think Mere Christianity, “God likes matter. He invented it.” To deny the goodness and corruption of both body and soul is to deny the gospel. Both will receive ultimate glorification by faith. We mustn’t separate man’s flesh from man’s spirit.

His next assertion bugs me mostly because I hate passive-aggressive crazy talk (particularly when I do it myself). So, if you want to skip this paragraph, go ahead, it’s not that important. This is just a pet-peeve of mine. “Listen, I’m not here to tell you how science has concluded that genetically we’re all mixed and race in the human species doesn’t exist. Or how every historian knows that race was invented in the 15th century to divide people from each other and it has worked perfectly. No… I’m not here to lecture.” First off. No. No, it wasn’t. Just like when people attribute nonsense to God and it’s still nonsense, attributing nonsense to science or historians still remains nonsense. And no, race wasn’t “invented in the 15th century to divide people.” Again, define your terms. This is the first time you’ve used the word “race,” so what do you mean? If you mean to say that the only actual race is the human race, and people who use the term “race” to refer to “African people” or “European people” or “Asian people” are using the term incorrectly, then say that. Don’t say race was “invented in the 15th century,” say that the word was redefined and abused, and then PROVE that it was so. Give the etymology of the word and show how its use changed over time. Don’t make a crazy claim and then throw on some unnamed authorities like “science” and “historians” and imply that it’s self-evidently true.
Second, yes you ARE here to say those things. If you weren’t here to tell us those things, then why are you telling us those things!?!?! Don’t pretend like you don’t consider that to be an extremely important argument. You wouldn’t have included it in this “well obviously this is true, but that’s not really important” kind of way.
Third, this is the closest thing in this whole thing to actually being an argument, and not being a hodge-podge of feel-this, feel-that, who-cares-about-logic-lets-all-just-virtue-signal-together, so it’s extremely stupid on your part to downplay this section with false-humility, and obvious arrogance. But that’s not the point…

The next part is where he actually gets stupid, and I mean that word in a technical sense. What he says next shows a lack of intelligence or common sense.

“Who would you be if the world never gave you a label. Never gave you a box to check? Would you be White? Black? Asian? Native American? Middle Eastern? Indian? No. We would be one; we would be together. No longer living in the error of calling human beings black people or white people.” First, that’s highly unlikely. If the world had never given you a label, even if it wasn’t called “black people” and “white people,” all of the “white people” would still recognize “Hey, that guy has darker skin than I do” and all of the “black people” would still recognize “Hey that guy has lighter skin than I do.” The same way I look at Donald Trump (who is “white” like me) and say, “Hey, that guy has orange skin and wispy hair.” The same way I look at a kid with progeria and say, “Hey, that kid has a big head and looks really old and unusual.” Recognizing differences in physical traits is not bad. It’s actually a good thing to do. It means you have a firm grasp of reality.

Second, you are mixing up your categories. Black and white are colors, Asian and Native America represent continents of origin, Middle Eastern represents a region comprising several possible countries of origin, and Indian indicates one specific country of origin within Asia. If someone gives you a form with those boxes to check, and you are a black Indian, you would have to check three of the boxes. It’s just a badly written form at that point. The labels supplied do not all clarify the same question, and so it’s just a waste of time. These labels need to go from this form, not because all labels need to go, but because they don’t help clarify anything in this context.

DEFINE LABEL

The reality is, he doesn’t have the right definition of “label.”

He is using the word “label” incorrectly and it come through in the next few lines. “These labels that will forever blind us from seeing a person for who they are, but instead seeing them through the judgmental, prejudicial, artificial filters of who we think they are.”

If the label blinds you from seeing a person for who they are, the problem is you, not the label. The point of a label is to describe a person, and in the context of the labels given in this video, it is to describe a person’s physical attributes.

Importing moral meaning into those physical attributes IS bad, and it’s actually what Prince EA is doing, while telling you not to do it. Seeing a kid with progeria and drawing conclusions like “That kid has a big head and looks really old and unusual, he must be my inferior in worth and morals” is what’s bad. It’s illogical. The conclusion does not follow the premise. The minute you start importing more meaning into the label than the physical trait they recognize or describe, you are in the wrong, BUT THE LABEL ITSELF IS NOT WRONG.

“And when you let an artificial label define yourself, then, my friend, you have chosen smallness over greatness, and minimized yourself.” Again, yes and no. Yes, if you let other peoples’ opinions of you define you, regardless of reality, then you are wrong for doing so. However, if you observe something about yourself, be it physical or not, and that observation is accurate, then absolutely let that observation, that “label,” inform your understanding of yourself. Don’t let it define you, but let it describe you. Then, if that description is bad, work to change yourself so it no longer describes you, and if that description is good or neutral, don’t change yourself so that description continues to describe you.

What you shouldn’t do is change the meaning of the description! The label is not responsible here.

Unfortunately, that’s the conclusion that Prince EA comes to.

“And it is an undeniable fact that where there is division, there will be conflict and conflict starts wars therefore, every war has started over labels. It’s always us versus them. So, the answer to war, racism, sexism, and every other-ism, is so simple that every politician has missed it. It’s the labels… we must rip them off.” That’s just stupid. No every war has not started over labels. Aside from the fact that your syllogism is stupid, it’s also faulty. But I won’t bother giving a logic lesson right now. Just go listen to lesson one in the Homegroup series “The Story of the Bible.” In short, no, the answer to the things you mentioned isn’t to stop describing things.

He then gets well and truly into my wheel-house by discussing human nature, anthropology.

“Isn’t it funny how no baby is born racist. Yet every baby cries when they hear the cries of another no matter the gender, culture or color. Proving that deep down we were meant to connect and care for each other.” Neither of these statements is provable. First of all, how do you know that no baby is born racist? I’ve seen many babies who are particularly prejudiced for unclear reasons. My friend’s baby, for example, cried every time I held her for the first six attempts, and even the mother and father couldn’t figure out why. (It’s probably just cause I’m weird, but the point still stands. Babies could be racist, we have no way of knowing.) Second of all, assuming you’re right that every baby cries when they hear the cries of another, how do you know that’s them empathizing (caring for or connecting with) each other? What if it’s just them being selfish and wanting that other baby to shut up about whatever’s bothering them because it’s annoying when babies cry? Biblically speaking, babies are born selfish sinful human beings. Most people with babies recognize this. It doesn’t take long for you to realize just how big of jerks babies are. It doesn’t mean we don’t still love them, it just means they’re sinners. Sinners (aka. humans) are quite often racist. A denial of original sin will often lead you to the wrong conclusion, and we see it on display here.

“That is our mission, and that is not my opinion, that is the truth in a world that has sold us fiction.” Now we’re really cooking. State your opinion, and say it’s not your opinion. That makes sense. Then say it’s the truth and the world has sold us fiction. By all means! Make your truth claim! I’m glad you believe in absolute truth, but validate and substantiate that truth claim with actual logical arguments.  You haven’t been doing that Prince.

“Please listen, labels only distort our vision, which is why half of those watching this will dismiss it or feel resistance and conflicted.” Wait a second, are you labeling your audience? Are you seriously so conceited that you can apply a label such as “conflicted” or “resistance” or imply that there’s a group labeled “half of those watching” and then making a value judgment about what they’ll do with it? How dare you judge them like that!

CONCLUSION

“We were meant to be free, and only until we remove them all and stop living and thinking so small will we be free to see ourselves and each other for who we… truly… are.” I actually kind of agree with this. Freedom is what we were meant to experience, but we told God, nah, I’ll take slavery to sin instead. So now we’re destined to either eternal slavery to sin, or eternal slavery to God. Those are the only two ends that await mankind. But that’s not what Prince EA means here. Unfortunately, he again does not define his terms. (Guess he doesn’t want to label his labels.) What does he mean by free? You see, he is not arguing for no labels, he is arguing for only good labels. He wants us all to be free. But what is freedom, if not a label? How can you define freedom without a picture of both good and evil and objective morality? Here’s the one I really want to know the answer to: Free from what? He sort of answers that implicitly. His answer is, “free from seeing ourselves and each other as who we are not.”

Okay, if that’s your actual goal Prince EA, I’m on board. I’m with you. We should be free from seeing ourselves and others improperly. We should have accurate visual/mental pictures of ourselves and others. However, I strongly disagree with your method of achieving that end. The way we achieve the end of “seeing each other for who we truly are” is not to eliminate all descriptions from our vocabulary. Labels are not the problem. PEOPLE MISUSING the labels are the problem. In reality, the PEOPLE are the problem.

The problem is that people are innately sinful, deceitfully wicked, selfish, and corrupt. People were created good, and have gotten themselves into a pit of despair, and don’t even think of CHAGAOGGHHH HAAGGGH… *cough *cough… don’t even think of trying to escape. (Yay Princess Bride references!) You can’t do it. You are in the mess of sin, and you will never get yourself out of this mess. Someone who is outside of this mess has to get you out. That’s the gospel. The answer to this problem, that you rightly want solved Prince EA, is the gospel of Jesus. It’s the central Christian message.

And that’s what really bugs me about this video. Prince EA wants the right thing. He wants evil to end. He’s just promoting a false (and fundamentally self-contradictory) solution, and everybody is calling him a philosopher-king for doing it! Prince: Please, please believe the gospel. You can’t do it. Society can’t do it. We can’t end evil ourselves, we need the author of good himself to fix the problem, and no, the problem isn’t labels. It’s actually quite harmful to yourself and to society to deny realities about yourself. You are black. I am white. No that doesn’t tell us anything more than the color of our skin, but the color of our skin is a part of who we truly are… and that’s okay, in fact it’s a great thing.

 

 

 

 

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