Stop Hating On Darkness.

Via on Aug 21, 2012

Why do we often associate darkness with evil?

It’s a common analogy, used as a teaching tool in many settings. You’ve heard it I’m sure? The light is good and the dark is evil.  Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reinforced this allegory:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

With these words, Dr. King correlates darkness with hate. And he’s not alone.

Over the years, I’ve stumbled upon enlightened teachers, in all shades of complexion, having a hard time breaking out of the mental conditioning that white is good and black is bad. Although seeming harmless to many, for someone with dark skin complexion the effects of this analogy can cause a psychological impression beyond what appears on the surface.

In the 1940s, Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark designed a test to study the psychological effects of segregation on black children. In his “Doll Test” Dr. Clark used four plastic, diaper-clad dolls, identical in everything except color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven and asked them questions to determine racial awareness and preference. Almost all of the children were able to identify the race of the dolls; however, when asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it.

Dr. Clark’s famous “Doll Test” was later used in the 1950s as expert social science testimony in a number of legal cases and was endorsed by 35 leading social scientists. The Supreme Court specifically cited his 1950 paper on the “Doll Test” in their Brown vs. Board of Education landmark decision. This gave teachers and educators the knowledge and responsibility to know how analogies negatively impact the subconscious self-image of our children (and adults).

Malcolm X also spent time in his speeches addressing this negative association with color that Dr. Clark scientifically explored. He observed that in the fifth edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the word “white” was partially defined as, “Free from spot or blemish, innocent, pure, without evil intent, harmless, honest, square dealing and honorable.”

Meanwhile, the word black contained in its definition, “Foul, evil, ugly, hatred, utterly dismal or gloomy, sullen, hostile, outrageously wicked, indicating disgrace or dishonor.” Malcolm X believed these unfair definitions furthered implicit stereotypes and deepened the internalized oppression and self-hatred that black people were already working so hard to overcome.

The phenomenon of negative color association with darkness still rapes the psyche and self-image of people around the world today.

Skin lightening soaps and creams are commonly used by millions of people in African and Asian nations, as well as amongst dark skin populations living in North America and Europe. A 2008 study conducted by the World Health Organization discovered that 77 percent of Nigerians, 59 percent of Togolese and 35 percent of South Africans used skin-lightening products on a regular basis.  Meanwhile, a 2011 study in India saw 61 percent of the dermatological market consisting of skin lightening products.

If you study the complexion of Bollywood actors and magazine models in India, you’ll find that the whiter your skin the greater chance you’ll have of being cast in the star role. Fascinatingly enough, in the industrialized world amongst whites, the opposite pattern sometimes occurs. Spending hours in the sun or a tanning salon has become a prescription for beauty, simply proving that the moon is always darker on the other side.

For what are these things that we know of as darkness and lightness?
Do they have any objective meaning besides what we have socially superimposed?

Perhaps humans are afraid of the dark because our ability to survive decreases. Come nighttime we become fearful because our eyes are not very discerning. We’re more susceptible to a surprise attack because we do not know what is in our surroundings. A fear of darkness is natural for humans, but does that make darkness “bad” or “evil?” Subjectively, perhaps for humans it does, but how about for a bat, owl or other nocturnal creature?

Many living organisms thrive in darkness and have developed keener senses of sight (through sound) for the blackness of night. For these creatures darkness surely is not an enemy but a stalwart friend that enables their survival. For them darkness is “good,” and daytime is when they’re hiding.

Water is never stiff
Light is never blind
Inside darkness is born life.

Perhaps if you’re reading this and you love sleep, then darkness is not so bad all the time? In fact, you probably crave it when you shut your eyes.  Perhaps if you’re reading this and you’re fascinated by the unknown then darkness serves a great purpose, for within it exploration and searching is given birth, and these are prime movers of our evolution.

It’s within darkness that a majestic seed of creation and birth is planted. The womb is pitch black. In absolute darkness inception takes place, and in the black is where new life is incubated, nurtured, grown and sewn.

Seeds are planted underground, in the darkness of dirt, where they begin their journey, sure, toward the sun light, but until they break out of the soil they are moving through darkness. In fact, darkness is what provides the roots motivation to move upward toward the light, and roots, the lifeblood for the flowers remain submerged until the very end.

If we change our perception we can easily see more sides to the story, and hopefully discover more creative allegories that speak to the truth of beauty.

In the Western world, there is a common misperception that the ancient Chinese Yin-Yang symbol correlates to good and evil. A deeper probing into the metaphysics of Taoism reveals however, our perceptions are subjective and create dichotomy to what is otherwise an indivisible whole. Lightness and darkness cannot possess any human characteristic or contain our projection of good and evil. Dark and light are not opposing forces but rather complementary forces—they need each other to exist.

Now doesn’t that make darkness quite a beautiful thing?

Darkness can teach us about our nature and illuminate from where we came from, but only if we move past associating it with bad and evil. So instead of fearing night time, or day time, let us embrace them and realize that whether black or white, light or dark, you’re simply another hue of life.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About HawaH

HawaH is an artist, author, educator, yoga teacher and community organizer. In the year 2000, he co-founded One Common Unity, a non-profit organization that inspires a culture of non-violence through arts, media and music. He has released four books, two musical CD’s, and produced three documentary films. His fourth book, The Poetry Of Yoga, is a 2 volume anthology set featuring the writing of 300+ yogi poets from 19 different countries. In his spare time he enjoys: finding new foods to mix with chocolate, climbing trees and buildings, doing handstands on furniture, hiking through mountains with flip flops, body surfing ocean waves, making animal sounds and bird calls, enjoying a glass of wine at high altitude, lighting candles in dark rooms and traveling. His personal work can be discovered at Everlutionary.

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17 Responses to “Stop Hating On Darkness.”

  1. Justina Farester says:

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

    Jesus is the light of the world!

    • Hawah says:

      Blessings Justina! Thanks for commenting here… I'm curious what happens when you have someone who equally embraces light and darkness?… but does not place moral attributes to the phenomenon of sun rising and setting? Also, since I don't want to try and touch any of your religious beliefs… which are beautiful and important! I'm sure you also see how harmful this analogy is, as it upholds and promotes a white supremacist doctrine?

      • justina says:

        Hi Hawah,

        Blessings to you my friend! I noticed you posted this on Aug. 21st and tonight the Lord led me to the book of Revelations the 21st chapter (I recommended readinging all of it) and he put this on my heart to send to you…Rev. 21:22-24 "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their slendor into it."

      • justina says:

        No temple is needed in the new city because God's presence will be everywhere. God will be the light in the new Jerusalem. Light represents what is good, pure, true, holy, and reliable. Darkness represents what is sinful and evil. That God's glory illuminates the city means that the city will be enveloped by him, who is perfectly holy and true. Light is also related to truth in that it exposes whatever exists. Just as darkness cannont exist in the presence of light, so sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God!
        Many do not walk in the truth because they fear persecution so badly that they choose temporary personal safety over eternal life with God. Not everyone will be allowed into the new Jerusalem. Eternal life is available to you ONLY because of what Jesus, the Lamb, has done! Trust him today!

  2. binder4health says:

    Great article, HawaH. The word balance comes to mind after reading your piece. And while most find the light/ dark analogy very useful to getting their point across, your story here goes much deeper. Like into the darkness of soil, as you mentioned. Embrace the shadow self. It's a part of you too.

    • Hawah says:

      Yes yes! I'm just challenging us to try and be more creative and accountable to the effects of our teaching tools. thanks for the comment!

  3. Justina Farester says:

    Hi Hawah,

    Blessings to you my friend! I noticed you posted this on Aug. 21st and tonight the Lord led me to the book of Revelations the 21st chapter (I recommended readinging all of it) and he put this on my heart to send to you…Rev. 21:22-24 "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their slendor into it."

  4. justina farester says:

    No temple is needed in the new city because God's presence will be everywhere. God will be the light in the new Jerusalem. Light represents what is good, pure, true, holy, and reliable. Darkness represents what is sinful and evil. That God's glory illuminates the city means that the city will be enveloped by him, who is perfectly holy and true. Light is also related to truth in that it exposes whatever exists. Just as darkness cannont exist in the presence of light, so sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God!
    Many do not walk in the truth because they fear persecution so badly that they choose temporary personal safety over eternal life with God. Not everyone will be allowed into the new Jerusalem. Eternal life is available to you ONLY because of what Jesus, the Lamb, has done! Trust him today!

  5. [...] When we plant a seed it is in darkness, literally, for some time. We cannot see anything happening underneath the soil; all is hidden so it seems. Before long we see the soil cracking open, revealing the first little sprout of new life and we rejoice seeing a physical sign our plant is growing; a first indication of bigger things to come. [...]

  6. [...] Stop Hating On Darkness. by HawaH via Elephant Journal [...]

  7. forwardmotion818 says:

    i just finished reading a book about the shadow self and the balance we can get from not running or hiding from it. great article, hawah! i look forward to more of your writings.

  8. cesar says:

    wonderful article HawaH. thank you. as i was reading it, the Zen poem, Sandokai, came to mind.
    i leave it with you as an offering of my gratitude.

    Harmony of Difference and Equality (Sandokai)

    The mind of the great sage of India

    is intimately transmitted from west to east.

    While human faculties are sharp or dull,

    the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.

    The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
    
the branching streams flow on in the dark.

    Grasping at things is surely delusion,

    according with sameness is still not enlightenment.

    All the objects of the senses

    transpose and do not transpose.

    Transposing, they are linked together;

    not transposing, each keeps its place.

    Sights vary in quality and form;

    sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.

    Darkness merges refined and common words;
    
brightness distinguishes clear and murky phrases.

    The four elements return to their natures,

    Just as a child turns to its mother.

    Fire heats, wind moves,
    
water wets, earth is solid.

    Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
    
nose and smells, tongue and tastes;

    Thus for each and every thing,

    according to the roots, the leaves spread forth.

    Trunk and branches share the essence;

    revered and common, each has its speech.

    In the light there is darkness,

    but don't take it as darkness;

    In the dark there is light,

    but don't see it as light.

    Light and dark oppose one another
    
like the front and back foot in walking.

    Each of the myriad things has its merit,

    expressed according to function and place.

    Existing phenomenally like box and cover joining;

    according with principle like arrow points meeting.

    Hearing the words, understand the meaning;

    don't establish standards of your own.

    Not understanding the Way before your eyes,

    how do you know the path you walk?

    Walking forward is not a matter of far or near,

    but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.

    I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,

    don't pass your days and nights in vain.

  9. Kathryn says:

    Beautiful, a delicious read. Thank you.

  10. Nawal says:

    A beautiful and important read. Thank you HawaH!

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