“Color cannot be understood except in relation to the person who perceives it,” physicist Pierre Demers wrote in the Foreword to this book. He clearly confirms the relevance of this essay. First of all, in fact, we thought it would be useful to consider the civilizational (politico-religious) attitude of the West toward the Blacks, before pointing out the deficiencies of present-day science, which is predominantly Western, in its perception of the Black Universe.
The Western political attitude toward the Blacks has for many centuries been determined by the perverse ruler-servant, master-slave, exploiter-exploited relationship. In order to normalize its policy of enslaving Blacks, Judeo-Christian civilization went so far as to use Christianity to legitimize what today we generally call “crimes against humanity”, such as the racist slavery peculiar to the West. That situation was facilitated by the fact that the monotheistic religion, which had originally been universalist, soon limited its horizons to the boundaries of the Western world, while the other peoples — which it thought it had attracted — seemed to find themselves there in spite of themselves. Some might wonder whether the abandonment by the West of Christian universalism does not explain that inability of Judeo-Christian civilization to adopt a universalist attitude, not only in the political but also in the scientific realm.
As a matter of fact, present-day science, dominated for a few centuries by the West, can hardly claim to be “universal”, since it is so deeply affected by the Westerners who perceive it. These people have — as we all know — lost any authentically universalist dimension. Did they not, by using and misusing the Bible, attempt to prove the superiority of Western Whites over Blacks and other colored peoples, limiting there too the vast universalist horizons of science to the very boundaries of the West? Everything seems to indicate that science is no longer universal; it is “Western”, with all the consequences that implies for humanity and, in particular, for the Black world.
In other words, the Western approach, the Western way of thinking, is far from being scientific, neutral and objective; it is subjective and distorting. Such subjectivity and distortion manifest themselves still more obviously, as we have seen, in the realm of colors, and more specifically when dealing with the concept of “black”. One must therefore bring into play the social sciences — history, sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis, political science, etc. — to understand that Western handicap. Indeed, as soon as it has to deal with “black”, Western reasoning vacillates, making room for the irrational and its array of fantasies.
The author of the Foreword to this book, a physicist, under went a conversion in 1974, where by he would from then on wholly devote himself to the study of colors. He says that he has been attracted more and more strongly by the multidisciplinary and deeply human nature of the study of colors. He states that the “rational comprehension of colors cannot have the necessary depth, unless all the sciences are called upon: chemistry, biology, physiology, physics, and mathematics”. He even insists: “Once more the human aspect intervenes. Man is both the creator and the necessary vehicle of all sciences. It is doubly true that there is no rational knowledge of color outside of mankind.” He thus admits, as we do, though in a roundabout way, that the present understanding of colors leaves much to be desired. Is it not strongly influenced by the dominant contemporary civilization, polluted so long by prejudices against peoples of color, especially Blacks?
Such a serious Western handicap obviously hinders the forward march of universal science as well as that of all mankind. Both are victims of a racist — and therefore anti-scientific, selfish and limited — vision of the world. The case of Haiti, to use an example with which we are very familiar, is a symptom of the non-universalistic attitude of those who rule the world — the Westerners. Although it may still be possible to scientifically correct the erroneous vision of “blackness” fairly quickly, it is much more difficult to improve human behavior from one day to the next, since mentalities evolve rather slowly. In the meantime, we cannot help being aware that the West keeps dragging around its heavy burden of anti-Black prejudice, and that attitude is detrimental to both the Western and Black worlds.
That unfortunate situation has already been denounced by the legitimate President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. Reacting courageously to the position of Pope John Paul II vis-à-vis the Haitian problem,with a feeling of indignation, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 1992, he reproaches the fact that “being rejected by all the states of the world, these criminals — the Haitian “putschists” — have nevertheless been recognized by the Vatican, the only state that has elected to give its blessing to crimes it should have condemned in the name of the God of Justice and Peace.” He also appropriately asks a rather legitimate question: “What would the Vatican’s attitude be, had Haiti been inhabited by white people?” He also wonders: “What would the attitude of Pope John Paul II have been, had Haiti been Polish?” Better still, in another speech delivered in Washington in January 1993, he unambiguously denounces the perpetuation of the political and economic domination of his country:
“Will Haiti, at the threshold of the 21st century, two hundred years after the Declaration of Human Rights, keep living, as it did in the 18th century, in a master-slave relationship, only the appearance of which has really changed, since 80 percent of the people live in abject conditions, being deprived even of the right to education, without speaking of the most basic freedoms?”
How profound and serious these questions are!
Has not the West, in its relations with the “peoples of color”, always supported rulers who are docile slaves to itself, but tyrants to their own peoples? This was the case in Haiti, first of all with the dictatorship of the Duvaliers, and today with the military putschists of the September 30, 1991 coup. Obviously, Aristide does not at all correspond to the “master-slave, slave-tyrant” model. Therein lies the explanation of the West’s ambiguous attitude regarding his return to perform his legitimate presidential functions
The Western attitude concerning President Aristide and his country is doubtless characterized by the deep hypocrisy which dictates the behavior of the Western leaders. In fact, after paying lip service to the exiled leader and his cause while still consolidating the illegitimate military power in Haiti, all of a sudden Westerners, fearing a possible massive Haitian immigration, showed a serious interest in the return to power of the legitimate President, Jean Bertrand Aristide. Nobody was fooled: the sudden humanitarian gesture of the American President, William Jefferson Clinton — or more precisely, of the American establishment — far from having been dictated by universalistic principles, seems rather to have resulted from what we call “Western politico-cultural fantasies” concerning Blacks. The Haitian refugees or “Boat People” were landing on American shores in increasing numbers. Were not those refugees seen by American politicians as a veritable “black tide” about to “pollute” the American “whiteness”? The so-called humanitarian considerations claimed on that occasion undoubtedly are due more to cultural fantasies than politics.
Suddenly, the legitimate Haitian leader’s charisma and credibility were perceived as a last hope against that “black tide” which “White America” prefers to keep in Haiti, away from U.S. shores. Is that not a prelude to irrational behavior with regard to Western policies toward world migrations and the inevitable meeting of the “coloured peoples” with the civilization of Judeo-Christian societies?
Be that as it may, like present-day science, whose universalism is now quite questionable, does not the reality of Western world politics distance itself from universalism to plunge into a quasi-particularism aiming only at the promotion and supremacy of the White world? President Aristide is right when he quotes the universalist Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, who states that “the visible opens our eyes to the invisible”. Science, just like color, cannot be understood outside of the person who perceives it.
This article was first published in the Montreal daily, Le Devoir, on March 30, 1993, under the title: Science et RÉalitÉ (Science and Reality). It was also published in its entirety in La Presse, another Montreal daily, on April 23, 1993, under the title: Haiti versus les phantasmes politico-culturels occidentaux (Haiti versus Western Politico-Cultural Fantasies).