Studying Black Yin

[By: Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) and Dr. Valerie Prince]

Blackness as we know it today cannot escape the white vs. black/ good vs. bad/ righteousness vs. evil dichotomy that upholds the idea of white supremacy. The snare is even more labyrinthine for language and intellectual brokers who confront the colonial history  of the language we write and speak as an obstacle in communication. What “black” means is not simply what we intend; rather, the idea has a legacy which establishes a trajectory that leads us to dead-ends or pathways that are not our desired course. Though we have tried to change the definition of black within the English language, the task may be impossible. In effect, the connotations inherent in the language cannot be overcome by systematic rebuttals and an exertion of will.

Instead, if we are to articulate notions of blackness that are not trapped in the good vs. bad dichotomy we must move outside of English to find an alternative system of codifying our experiences. Consider as an alternative the paradigm of “black” and “white” found in the Yin and Yang symbol. The connection between polarities implied by the diagram is worthy of he Black writer’s study. The Yin and Yang symbol is a circle comprised of black and white in equal measure, separated by a complex border, with a smaller circle of each within the heart of the other. Here, the binary opposites are inextricably linked and swirling around each other in balance

Black in the Taoist framework symbolizes Yin energy. Yin represents the dark, shadowy, passive, feminine force. Yin power is also rooted in gentleness, nurturing and corresponds with water, which according to the Tao Teh Ching is the natural element that corresponds to the great man and benefits all things.

 When we return to the work of the African American knowledge broker, reading black responses to captivity from a yin perspective–the framework offers an alternative way of dealing with root issues of self esteem, disenfranchisement, action, and struggle in our culture and literature. With the notion of Black Yin, one can investigate power cultivation from a liberating, alternative perspective.