Welcome to our IDEA Glossary series, where we discuss important terminology in the inclusion, diversity, equity and access space, we’re onto B, and B is for Black (with a capital ‘B’).
So there are lots of things I would like to discuss surrounding this term, including the evolution of terminology we used before Black, what it means to be ‘Black’ in Canada and how the meaning of Black is very different depending on where you are in this world. I also think that ‘blackness,’ ‘blaccents,’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ are topics that probably deserve their article — so today, I’m keeping it short and sweet and just talking about the definition of Black.
Here’s the official definition.
Black is a racialized classification of people, usually with African ancestry, who have a wide range of skin colours and complexions.
Let’s break this definition down a bit to understand some of the key aspects. I highlighted several words in the description that I want to explore further, including the capitalization of the term and what is meant by African ancestry and complexion.
The capitalization of Black is more necessary now than ever; however, there are a few thoughts around the capitalization; one that resonated with me was from an article by Mike Laws, shared in the Columbia Journalism Review:
To capitalize Black, in her view, is to acknowledge that slavery “deliberately stripped” people forcibly shipped overseas “of all other ethnic/national ties. African American is not wrong, and some prefer it, but if we are going to capitalize Asian and South Asian and Indigenous, for example, groups that include myriad ethnic identities united by shared race and geography and, to some degree, culture, then we also have to capitalize Black.”
Many who consider themselves Black have full or partial African ancestry, whether through Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean or South/Central America. In Canada, 46 percent (547,785) of Black Canadians are of Caribbean origin, and 35 percent (424,840) of Black Canadians are of African immigrant origin.
The last item I wanted to discuss is complexion. People who consider themselves Black may have a wide range of skin complexions. When looking at the content of Africa, there are groups of people whose complexions range from the “deepest black in the Dinka of South Sudan to beige in the San of South Africa.”
Remember, everyone uses and is comfortable with different terms, so if writing or addressing someone, it’s best to ask first what is preferred — or even (as journalists do, ask if it is vital to include the information). Additionally, the term Black is a noun describing a culture, and it’s never to be used as an adjective or in the plural sense [i.e. Blacks].
I’ve included some resources that may be helpful to understand the term ally a bit better:
- Definitions [The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society ]
- Black Canadians [Wikipedia]
- Diversity of the Black population in Canada: An overview [Stats Canada]
- Black Canadians [The Canadian Encyclopedia]
- The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black [The Atlantic]
- The varying skin colors of Africa: light, dark, and all in between [Penn Today]
Do you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the term black? Leave a comment below and lets discuss.