Color theory

by Andrea Elizabeth

I do not think that the solution to “race relations” is to be color blind, nor to ignore cultures of origin and just say everyone is American and only identified by their first name. There is name politics too, or else immigrating people wouldn’t have changed their last names. A lot of things have improved over the last 50 years, but there is still a lot of sensitivity, at the least.

I just noticed that in my last post I started out giving the two lead men first and last names, then the two women were identified by possible country of descent and hair color. The men’s heritage was evident in their last names, however. The “unblonde” lady’s name doesn’t help, she’s Carla Hall. The blonde lady’s name is Daphne Oz, ooo, that doesn’t help either. There is a fine line between stereotyping and recognizing tendencies. I don’t think that anyone should stick to their evaluations of tendencies and claim to know people without having an open mind about how everyone is different. Color isn’t exactly a universal, but it can be compared to one, and individuals are particulars. Both have meaning and play off of each other. And there is a difference between one who is blonde by nature, and one who is blonde by bottle. And even blondes by bottle vary. Are they trying to get more attention from men, or are they artists seeking expression, or did their hair get mousy and it is less distracting with their skin tones than other colors? I said Daphne was persnickety because the one time in a long time I watch the show, she mentioned how she likes to host Thanksgiving because she gets to pick the foods she likes, and she gets to keep the leftovers she likes. It’s all about what she likes. Now one can like certain colors more than others. One can like certain cultures more than others. These can be associated with each other. But having the going priority in life being what I like and what I don’t like is very selfish. And prejudiced. 

But racial sensitivity isn’t just about likes and even value judgments. There is also inherited relationship. There is history and hurt feelings. And it goes both ways. I feel judged as a white person for devaluing black people. A lot of it has to do with my inherited skin color and natural connotations with my history of deep southern descent, though I think my family was too poor to own slaves, but one set of grandparents did have “help”. 

I don’t know why exactly, but I have always been drawn to black people. I am a first generation Texan and one of my earliest memories is of watching a C.A.R.E commercial and wanting to go to Africa to help. This goal continued through young adulthood when I went to nursing school to go to Africa and feed “little brown babies”, as Ingrid Bergman says in Murder on the Orient Express. Yet, since I feel that they feel that I look down on them, I tend to be self-conscious about it and work harder than I should to be nice to them. It’s probably patronizing.

I have been happy to be friends with a handful of black women over the years in my predominantly white communities. Their color made an impression on me, but then after a while, it isn’t the loudest thing about them. But it continues to be interesting to me. Pardon me for staring. My ancestors are all typical UK, long time ago immigrants, except for my paternal grandfather whose parents both came from Germany a little before he was born. Germany isn’t that interesting to me, but I do like to go to Oktoberfest type restaurants. And Fahrvergnügen is a cool word. But that’s just selfish preference, and maybe some anti-Nazi carry-over prejudice.

I find it sad but fascinating that American black people are about 33% white, but their affiliation is usually black because it is such a dominant color. But substantially they are pretty European. I saw a documentary on it, where the black host discovered he’s partly Irish, and he goes to Ireland to a bar to sit with his peeps. The contrast is so striking between his appearance and his distant cousins’. It’s hard to get over to see sameness. But I look pretty hard for that too. Perhaps it’s the facial hair, and the thinner facial features.

And I wonder about inherited personality tendencies. I heard an American black man say that there are no bungee jumpers in Africa. Nor skydivers. That black people care more about their personal safety. Good for them! People point out western progress, which I am very critical of, compared to the mindset of “tribal” cultures. But why are Asians known for their “advances” in gunpowder and such, but their descendents, the American Indians, whose culture I am also very curious about, not?

In short, contrasting individuals to their communities is very interesting to me, and my fixation on it probably can be too invasive to some people. Please forgive me.

But color does matter. I have capillaries close to my skin and blush very easily. I think there are also psychological reasons. I know this tendency causes a reaction in other people, and that makes it more uncomfortable for me. I don’t expect them to ignore it, but I would like for them to try, not too hard or it gets worse!, to understand it.

Color matters. In the Church green is the color for the Holy Spirit, purple and black for repentance, red stands for resurrection, and gold for glory, which is another reason why people want to be blonde! As in all things, when one becomes Orthodox, they have to exchange their own individual, particular meanings for the Church’s universal ones.