The recent tragic crash of Ukraine International Airlines jet shortly after take-off from the airport in Tehran, the capital of Iran, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, has once again brought to the fore the use (or misuse) of the label “black” to describe all such bad incidents and events.

For example, when the New York stock market crashed on Monday, October 19, 1987, that calamity was described as “Black Monday” and that day was “ranked with the blackest days of the great crash of 1929.”

Furthermore, in 1988, when several Americans were accused of defrauding the US Defence Department out of billions of dollars through irregularities in procurement contracts, that incident was described as a “black hole” in the procurement process.

And in mid-November 1989, when Charles Keating was accused of stealing as much as $1.5 billion from his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, the accepted conclusion was that “Lincoln dropped into a regulatory black hole” and Keating was aptly described as a “financial Black Beard.”

And when ice forms on road surfaces and sidewalks, making them treacherous for all users, it is described as “black ice.”

In addition, when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, it becomes “Black Friday”—a bad, evil day!

Indeed, another very troubling scenario associated with the colour black involves a plane’s flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Now, when the plane takes off, the original colours of these devices are orange and yellow. However if the plane crashes, as in the case of Ukraine International Airlines jet, then suddenly those original orange and yellow coloured devices are described to the entire world as “black boxes.” What’s wrong with this picture?

More specifically, even if the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder boxes are severely damaged, they would still maintain their original orange and yellow colours. Why then are they described as the “black boxes?” Why is that?

The fact of the matter is that according to the conventional wisdom in the United States, whenever something goes awry, when something does not function in the positive way it is supposed to function, when something negative happens, when there is a calamity, and when something illegal occurs, then the adjective used to describe such events is black!

All members of the international community need to heed the poignant but apocalyptic admonition of slain African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, as follows: “Now the judgment of God is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we are all going to perish together as fools.”

Now is the most opportune time for the international community, especially media personnel, to begin to describe accidents according to their specific stark reality rather than to couch them within the unacceptable context of colour as in black!

The prosecution rests.


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