“Never trust anyone who says they do not see colour. This means to them, you are invisible.” ~ Nayyirah Waheed.
We live in a world awash with colour. Sky blue, Irish green, cardinal red, bubble gum pink, canary yellow, pearl grey… the colours and their allotted names are seemingly endless. Scientists believe that the human eye can distinguish hundreds, even millions, of different colours.
Given this, it’s strange to think that a handful of colours rub many humans up the wrong way and even cause some of us to engage in hate-speech, harbour prejudices and sometimes, even engage in acts of verbal and/or physical harassment and violence.
It’s funny (though personally, I don’t find it particularly amusing…) to think that generally, people only ‘hate’ colour when it comes to: the colour of another person’s skin, or, as it is more commonly known, their race.
So yes, the majority of us see the world in colour… but honestly, when it comes to race, I wish that we did not.
According to the Fitzpatrick scale – created in 1975 by Harvard University dermatologist, Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, as a means to document the different responses of various skin types to ultraviolet (commonly known as UV) light – there are 6 ‘types’ and Mr Fitzpatrick chose to categorise them as follows:
Type I (scores 0–6) Pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles – always burns, never tans
Type II (scores 7–13) White; fair; blond or red hair; blue, green or hazel eyes – usually burns, tans minimally.
Type III (scores 14–20) Cream white; fair with any hair or eye colour; quite common – sometimes mild burn, tans uniformly.
Type IV (scores 21–27) Moderate brown; typical Mediterranean skin tone – rarely burns, always tans well.
Type V (scores 28–34) Dark brown; Middle Eastern skin types — very rarely burns, tans very easily.
Type VI (scores 35+) Deeply pigmented dark brown to black — never burns, tans very easily.
(Something to ponder: Notice how, in the above, the darker a person’s skin type, the higher their accompanying ‘score’… that’s not something that’s generally seen as the case in real life, now is it?)
Although these examples might not accurately classify each racial skin tone that exists in our world, they seem much less offensive to me than the usual means of racial classification used for us as human beings, which include but are probably not limited to: white, black, brown, coloured (that is, if you reside in South Africa at least) yellow or Heaven forbid, the option sometimes presented to us as ‘other’… but hey, perhaps it is just I who thinks this.
In most countries, as responsible citizens, we are required to state our racial skin colour on virtually every important document known to man, including: birth and death certificates, driver’s licences, tertiary and job application forms, VISA forms and government forms.
In South Africa, even marriage certificates – whilst they do not require you to list your race on the certificate itself – are filed by date of registration and, according to familysearch.org, include, wait for it, wait for it, “…registrations of Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and Whites”.
I mean, seriously? Precisely what happened to listing things alphabetically or even just by name? Has human logic been utterly abadoned in our lifetime and have we really become so sickeningly obsessed with race, even after supposedly learning from and working past the mistakes of our forefathers and at times, those of us ourselves..?
At a glance, it seems that, as people, our racial colouring is constantly being slid under the microscope… it’s no longer enough for us to be judged intellectually on our racial colouring or to either profit or suffer financially, academically and emotionally, now we are also forced to recognise the different colours of our skins. In. Every. Damn. Thing.
There may not be very many racial colourings, it’s true, but there are enough of them to separate us as human beings in yet another significantly divisive, yet highly avoidable way.
Although it may be terribly cliched for me to quote it, Michael Jackson’s famous ’90s hit, Black Or White, had it down to a tee… because, honestly, “…it don’t matter if you’re black or white.”
Now, this does not mean that we have to all engage in interracial relatioships (though if you choose to, then that’s your right too and good for you), cease to acknowledge our differences – not just the racial but the cultural, spiritual, social and personal ones as well – put an end to all racial listings in our everyday lives or adopt a black (or, if you’re a black couple, perhaps a white one, eh?) baby like ‘Brangelina’ and Co. but it should mean that we find ways to look past the colour of our fellowman’s skin and endeavour to break down our racial barriers and hopefully one day, we will be able to put this damned race debate to bed once and for all!
Perhaps it’s just an individual conscious decision or a result of my being a ‘democracy baby’, but I don’t judge people based on their race or limit my friendships and social interactions to any singular race… I have friends and loved ones of every race and I love them equally, irrespective of their skin colour.
Apparently, some parts of the world are now experiencing a kind of ‘HIV/AIDS fatigue’ after so many years of constant warnings, trepidation and loss but right now, I think many people are experiencing a different global fatigue and it is a ‘race fatigue’.
I for one am so tired of hearing how my white skin makes me either brilliant or terrible – and I’m truly sick of being included in racial slurs, false beliefs and stupid, racially-spawned inhibitions.
The simple (and, unless I pull a reverse pyschology Michael Jackson move over here, rather unchangeable) fact of my being white, along with yet another fact – and, for what it’s worth, one which I am personally deeply ashamed of – of there having been a great many racist whites in the past and even in the present, especially in my home country of South Africa, does not make me a racist right along with them.
Were I a racist individual, it would be a result of my own belief system or feelings rather than a result of my ‘whiteness by default’.
So yeah, I am indeed white (but I am disgusted to be associated with the white racists who have lived – and continue to live – in my country and indeed the world at large) and yes, I am more privileged than many people alive today but I think it’s important to recognise that many of them are just as white – if not whiter – on a racial level than I am… and my ‘whiteness’ does not make me superior to anybody else, be they white, black or even green – and it does not, despite what many people think, give me the keys to life, the ticket to riches untold or mean that I am automatically smarter, more gifted or capable than someone who has a skin tone three shades darker than I myself do.
Because, you see, the colour of a person’s skin does not really make them any more racist, good, bad, funny, smart or downright stupid than someone else. At the expense of sounding unequivocally sappy, the aforementioned are and always have been determined by a person’s emotional drive, their predetermined traits and talents – as well as their hearts.
I know many people do not believe in God (and certainly not the God of the Bible if they do) but in the Bible it says that God formed our beings from the dust or, if you prefer, from the sands of the earth… and as we all know, there are many different sand tones… You have rust-coloured clay, pitch-black peat, beige sand, ocher soil and brown mud to give but a few examples and each type of ‘earth’ is unique, each is found in a special area that it will best thrive in or serve and each has its own beauty, resourcefulness and lastly, purpose… for whilst they are separate geographically or regionally, they must tie together to form the foundations of this world and keep everything in it in place.
Whether this is true or not, for some reason we are as diverse in colour as the sands of the earth and that’s not about to change anytime soon.
So isn’t it time that we look at the colour of a man’s heart and soul, rather than the colour of his skin..? Is it not perhaps time that we started to live life as colourblind humans by choice… at least as far as race is concerned?
For if we can do that, then rather than making people themselves feel invisible… we might just manage to make race invisible.