the power of color

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden

A page from Moses Harris’s The Natural System of Colors. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As a high school art teacher, I always taught a color theory unit to my Art I classes
before letting everyone jump right into using color…be it colored pencils, pastels, paints, etc.
Color was much more complicated than just grabbing some paint and a brush…
and my anxious charges needed to understand such.

We would explore the whole physiology of how our eyes and brain see color and perceive color.
We talked about prisms, refraction and the bending of light.

We would talk about what it meant to be color blind…as several of my students were color
blind and how’d we’d work with that.
We even had blind students come to talk to those of us who could see about
how they actually perceived color.

We studied Joseph Albers, the father of color theory.

We talked about warm /hot colors, cool/cold colors, monochromatic colors,
polychromatic colors.
Even beginning with the simple word, chroma.

We studied the effects that color played in our psychological wellbeing and
how colors could actually affect our emotions.

And so yes, color is much more nuanced than simply consisting of primary and secondary colors.

I would place three cups of clear water on a desk.
Next, I would use food coloring and drop in enough drops to have a solid red cup
of water, a solid blue cup of water, and a solid yellow cup of water—our primary colors.
I would then put three empty cups on the table.
I would pour equal proportions of yellow and red into a cup to make orange,
blue and red to make purple, then blue, and yellow to make green–our secondary colors

I’d next pull out a new empty cup and pour a bit of each of the second set of colored water cups
into the last empty cup—coming up with a muddy brown yucky color what is known
as tertiary.
Something that happens when a bunch of colors are blended into one.

I’d explain that sometimes when we’d paint and mess up a color we were going for,
we would unintentionally make things worse when we kept trying to add more and more
different colors thinking we could ‘fix it’…less is more I would implore…

And so when I was reading Dr. Gavin Ashenden’s latest post, Resisting Group Think,
this whole business of color theory came racing back to my thoughts.

Our dear friend from across the pond is just about as baffled as I am
with the new intense obsession, our culture is now having with color.
But rather than paint, our culture is obsessed with skin…
and the color of that skin.
And that obsession with skin color has a dubious name…Racism.

Dr. Ashenden notes that…“racism morphed.
It moved from doing something to thinking something, and then much much worse,
it became someone thinking you thought something.
This summer everyone is guilty, if the new anti-racist posters are true:
“silence is violence.”

But I have three reasons for not believing in racism as people now accuse one another.
It’s not easy to tell what race someone is; there is a sliding scale of skin colour;
and there is a better, healthier way of describing why some people don’t like some other people.

The races are mixed for most of us. Last year I was bought a DNA kit for a birthday present.
It turns out I am roughly 30% Anglo-Saxon’ 30% Celt; and 20% Jewish
(with a bit of Russian thrown in -!) God forbid one racial bit of me should ever fall out
with one of the other bits. Does the Celt in me deserve reparations from my Anglo-Saxon
invader bit?
Don’t even start with the Jewish persecution stuff, the massacre in York in 1190,
the mass expulsion in 1290 by Edward 1st. Luther? Hitler?

And I’m white. But I have never thought of myself as white. This skin tone stuff is
equally confusing and on a sliding scale of pigment.
Megan Markle looks white to me. My more remote Aryan ancestors came from India.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
It’s the imposing of the American cultural crisis on the rest of the world,
which has different cultural issues. It seems to be about transferring power
from ‘white’ (whatever that is) to black (whatever that is).

The worst thing about the new racism is that it uses a prism through which everything
and everyone are assessed through the lens of power.
This new language of power-relations replaces one moral world with another.
It changes our worth from what we do, and replaces it with what group we belong to.

We face a crossroads in morals and culture, and the new racism is
the tool used to shift the direction.

We are losing a simple and direct morality which invited you to love your neighbour
as yourself, and held you accountable if you failed or refused; we are replacing it
with thought-crime, collective guilt, censorship and the re-writing of history.

Resisting ‘group-think.’

And so we see that today’s culture indeed uses a prism in which to see…
but rather than bending light waves to see color…this prism bends peoples perceptions
to that of power and control.

I’m beginning to wonder if being color blind might not be the way we need to proceed…
yet we know that we have tied so much baggage to our ideas of societal color that we will
never be able to offload such a burden that we have created.

Unfortunately, I will never look at a color wheel the same, ever again.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,
with palm branches in their hands,

Revelation 7:9

21 comments on “the power of color

  1. says:

    Excellent analogy using your art background to paint a clearer picture. I wish everyone was color blind.

  2. bcparkison says:

    Reblogged this on moreinkpleaseblog and commented:
    And this is all that matters.

  3. hatrack4 says:

    This past Christmas, our 5 year old G-kid (as my wife calls them) had a Peppa the Pig water coloring book. Our son carefully explained how to do it, so that the color never touched the dirty brush. He turns to my wife and asks if she has any questions. She said that she did not. She continued to read her book and the little one proceeded to not follow any of his father’s instructions – he’s going to terrorize kindergarten this year. Our son came back from his errand and the little one said that he couldn’t find the pink to paint Peppa. Our son said, “Because you did not do what I told you and all you have are a dozen puddles of brown.” At that point, my wife put her book down and noticed what was going on for the first time. Hey, I got a good laugh.

  4. Cool post, Julie. I recently tried to give someone a “thumbs up” on FB, what used to be a little yellow cartoon emoji. Imagine my surprise when I tried to click it and was suddenly confronted with an entire palette of various realistic skin tones and I had to choose one. My little yellow happy face has now suddenly been converged into the Borg.

    • Thanks IB— I noticed that “color emoji choice” on my iPhone a while back— that apple inclusivity you know— don’t feel connected to the generic yellow? Well, by all means be chroma fluid— since of course we’re equally as fluid with human biology 🙄(he’s still yellow, it’s a matter of time)

  5. Profound and true, Julie. ❤

  6. oneta hayes says:

    Julie, I have just received a comment on I Want to be a Christian from Ashley Billings. She is a sixteen year old adopted child. I browsed her blog. I sent her your link. Her’s is Would you watch for her?

  7. SLIMJIM says:

    It has been a rough 3 months with all this race stuff

    • I fear it will only get worse!

      • SLIMJIM says:

        Yeah…I fear if Trump win, there’s still violence from them. If Trump loses, the mob feel empowered, and more violence…

      • Nothing like a good ol win win🙄

      • SLIMJIM says:

        There was a police shooting here a few days ago where the suspect was armed and running away. There’s already protests and police had to use non lethal. I think I mentioned about what happened in June. I fear when the police release the video this week no matter if it’s justified or not there be violence and destruction again. I’m so tired and fatigued. I feel bad for the guy’s family, feel sad for the African American community’s misery, I feel mad with those acting violently, and I feel bad for police, they are hated like soldiers in Vietnam in the 60s…

      • I know Jim— I feel the same—
        It all boils down to choices – and most choices today are poor and self serving

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