Home / Commentary  / Pot calling the kettle black: Stop using terms with embedded ethnic degradation

Pot calling the kettle black: Stop using terms with embedded ethnic degradation

Pot calling the kettle black, a phrase initially meaning one thing, embraced as something negative by urban culture “The pot calling the kettle black,” is a racist phrase – an idiom presupposing there is something inherently

Pot calling the kettle black, a phrase initially meaning one thing, embraced as something negative by urban culture

“The pot calling the kettle black,” is a racist phrase – an idiom presupposing there is something inherently wrong with the noun “black.” Monitor your speech, as this phrase is demeaning to Black people, though, initially unintended, as it was a poke at hypocrisy. Point of fact, many Black peoply innocently throw the phrase about, unknowingly demeaning themselves. The word black, in and of itself is not sinister, though society often attaches something egregious to it, i.e., black magic, blackmail, blackball or black cat.

A number of people weighed in on this perspective on the phrase, which may not have been intended to send a negative message, but has become such as many Black Americans embrace the metaphor as a “shotgun volley” intended to point out another’s hypocrisy, essentially blaming another when both are guilty a bucket of iced water in the face of both debaters.

Pay close attention to one White individual, Diane Rohabacher (not her real name), who was so intent on debasing what she concluded as another claim of Black victimization she clearly missed the “teaching moment” intended for Black Americans to defuse the negative verbal lingo that reinforces Black stereotypes and self-infused inferiority, similar to shooting one another with the n-word verbal bullet.

Diane Roharbacher: “Since when did it become about race? I thought it was about cast iron. No, it’s not racist. The term ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ is usually used in the sense of accusing someone of hypocrisy. The origins of the phrase date back to at least the 1600s, when several writers published books or plays which included wordplays on this theme. There is no racist connotation, any more than everything the color of black is an analog for people whose origin is of the African diaspora. The phrase simply comes from a cooking pot and a tea kettle. In the 1600s, both cooking utensils would have been cast and black in color.”

Compton Herald | Uncharted

“Uncharted” is commentary from Compton Herald publisher and editor, Jarrette Fellows, Jr.


Jarrette Fellows, Jr.: “Diane, it’s about context. You’re White. You cannot possibly understand the negative connotation of the phrase as it relates to the embrace of it by Black culture, the same as you don’t recognize the subtlety of something like ‘Angel Food Cake’ versus ‘Devil Food Cake,’ or ‘Black Magic’ versus ‘White Magic.’ These weren’t originally intended as negative, either, but in a racially polarized nation, some things bear another look. Learn something. You don’t always have to react impulsively.

Diane Roharbacher: “We can debate, agree and/or disagree but what you ought to try are facts as opposed to trying to make every ‘saying’ wrong because the word black is in it. Seriously, it’s obnoxious. It must be exhausting to try and create or turn everything thing around to make it fit your race agenda. Perhaps your overreaction to these “sayings” is impulsive! You love victimization. Oh, I understand, all you see is all you are. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, but I don’t think you see your value. I truly don’t think you will ever open your mind to seeing life any differently.”

Jarrette Fellows, Jr.: “That ‘victimization spiel doesn’t work with me. I am my own man 43-year veteran journalist/author, media owner, and independent voice. What part of me looks and sounds like a ‘victim’ to you? If I am a victim, so was the great journalist, orator, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.”

Diane Roharbacher: “What part of you looks and sounds like a victim? Looks no, you’re handsome! Sounds? When you talk about hate, racism, race, and or guilt-ridden White people, you talk about it as if it’s everywhere all the time, as if all White people are bad and racist, as if your heart sees nothing but ugly; that you and all Black people have always been treated poorly by all White people. Such doom and victimization.”

Jarrette Fellows, Jr.: “Diane, that’s condescending you know that’s not what I believe. I’m speaking of a certain demographic. That’s not you? Don’t wear the shoe. I have written enough about this issue for years, that people know I’m neither a ‘victim’ nor a ‘Black supremacist.’ I bring Americans of different ethnic stock together through dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue will be abrasive.”

Diane Roharbacher: “Yes, Jarrette Fellows, Jr., but you’re not willing to listen to the other side. And, it’s not ‘back then.’ This country with all its ugliness and good is still growing. Give it and of us room to grow. But labeling White or Black, and trying to squeeze past emotions onto the present isn’t going to work. We don’t grow when we point fingers, we don’t grow until we look forward.”

Jarrette Fellows, Jr.: “I do listen. I spend most of my time listening to others as journalists do during interviews. But, just like the bible, Diane, the past is intertwined with the present. One makes little sense without the other. The Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide happened in the past, too, but neither of these ethnic groups will let you live down these egregious episodes in world history. Why must it be different for Black Americans? America can’t pretend the ignominy toward Blacks in America never occurred no matter how ancient the history. By the way, schooling Blacks on an errant phrase (kettle/pot) that Black people have seized as a negative reference has nothing to do with White people or victimization. It is a teaching point for unenlightened Blacks.”

Renae Taylor-Johnson: “You know who brought this to my attention initially? My then, 16- year-old, very aware and conscious daughter. I never paid much attention to the inception of the term – it made me go, hmmm! There are a lot of undesirable terms, superstitions, folklore, riddles, jokes, songs, nursery rhymes, etcetera, that go right over our heads.”

Connie Rusch: “Thanks, Jarrette. It’s not a phrase I use but it will give me cause to examine the things I say.”

Jarrette Fellows, Jr.: “Thank you, Connie.”

Final Note: Diane Roharbacher missed a “teaching moment, even though it was not intended for her, but rather a teaching modality for Black people. Being White, she did not appreciate the lesson to Blacks and sought to denigrate the message. Truth is never exhausting, but denial of truth and reason should be. If one doesn’t understand something, do not try to render it as fallacy, just admit misunderstanding. Much about America is about race and bigotry. It cannot be denied.

What is obnoxious is the denial of the sin of racism or the tendency to minimize it. If you haven’t lived in Black skin, you will never fully understand the sin of racism.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.


Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.