The Black and White Pins

Unfortunately for English speakers, colors have come to represent all sorts of virtues and vices. White is purity, honesty, chastity. It is the color of wedding gowns.  It is also the "color" of the dominant members of society. (If you forget pink, salmon, frog belly etc.) Black represents evil.

I didn't think too much about choosing pins when I performed my mock exorcism. I simply followed the directions on the voodoo doll package. According to these, black pins were used for bad spells and white pins were used for nice spells. I used the black pin to put a curse on the "ill will" in the school district. Afterwards there was some concern that I was reinforcing the idea that black is evil and that the use of the black pin was a slur on African-Americans. Evidently some African Americans who were sensitive to old stereotypes took that concern to Mary Cameron. I hadn't seen it that way, I'm white after all, but I could appreciate the unconscious message non whites might see.

When I was in junior high I remember listening to Muhammad Ali during the evening news. It was probably at one of his many court appearances to regain his heavyweight title that was stripped from him when he refused to sign up for the draft. He was being typically outrageous, regaling the reporters with the curse of color coded words. He was cheeky, ironic, and very very funny. It was a classic Ali monologue, the kind that helped make him a hero for me and many others during the Vietnam years. He taunted White America for demonizing things black. I particularly remember his mentioning "devil's food cake." Yes, evil chocolate cake compared to virtuous, white "Angle food cake." Ah, the wicked symbolism of language used unconsciously by a dominant segment of society to reinforce its advantages.

I'd like to think that Ali would have enjoyed my voodoo exorcism. And who knows. If I'd used the white pin, I might really have screwed things up.