Colors: They define and label us but do they tell who we really are?

Apr 5, 2018

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green
Purple and
Orange and Blue
I can sing a rainbow
(I can sing a rainbow)
I can sing a rainbow too
– sung by The Dells

By Derek Hatcher

I love colors in all their hues and shades.

It’s interesting how the use of the word is embedded in the lives of so many people. When we see something which grabs our attention, often the description we use is colorful. But colorful isn’t just a place or a thing; a person can be colorful as well. As an African American, I embrace color, in our fashion, language, art, and so many areas of our lives. That doesn’t mean others don’t embrace color; it’s simply that they embrace color differently.

Since arriving to Cuenca, I’ve noticed that Ecuadorians embrace color in a manner which gives each individual their own unique style.

Having worked in information technology my entire adult life, I learned that no two programmers write code the same. It doesn’t make one bad and the other good; just different.

I love music, particularly jazz saxophonists. I’ll listen to Charley Parker, John Coltrane, Ronnie Laws, Yusef Lateef, Coleman Hawkins, Wayne Shorter, Lester Young, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley, Dexter Gordon, and many other talented sax musicians. Who is better? Who can say? Each has their own unique style, so for me it’s not about who is better; they all play differently.

That difference is what makes each of them unique.

There are distinctions in color for human beings as well. For centuries, color has been used to distinguish differences in people; categorizing hierarchal structures based on skin tone. This hierarchal structure not only defined who was human, it also declared who was not; in essence distorting our concept of good and bad. When Europeans began exploring the continent of Africa, they soon learned that Africans didn’t look anything like them.  Their rationale was that something was wrong. Why was the African darker than the white European? There had to be an explanation.

One European floated the theory that African women mated with orangutans producing offspring. Another floated the distorted Christian biblical theory that the African inherited the Noahic curse of Canaan. Still another theory was that the African skin was darkened by the sun since the continent was below the equator. This theory even promoted the belief that the African’s skin complexion would lighten if they were in a climate where the sun was less intense.

Today, rational thinking individuals would characterize these notions as preposterous; and yet at that time, these very notions were promoted by rational men as truth.

Today, some people still place a value on complexion. Lighter skin has value, goodness, sincerity, and other qualities which instill confidence. Darker complexion, however, is just the opposite. Instead of having the same qualities as lighter complexion, dark complexion lacks value, goodness, sincerity, along with other attributes which instill suspicion, doubt, and fear.

White is the embodiment of all things good, while Black embodies all things evil.

Perhaps you don’t see color in others that way, and if so then you are one not stuck in the notions and conjectures of the past. I think it’s human to see the differences in others, but I choose not to label the differences as either good or bad; just different.

In America, differences in the color of its citizenry is a topic few wish to honestly discuss. In Ecuador, I wonder how the different colors of citizens are viewed. Are lighter complexion Ecuadorians somehow better than darker Ecuadorians? Is this the influence of European colonialism permeating Ecuadorian culture?

Discussions on race, gender, or sexual identity are not simple conversation topics. There are differences in all of us. Those differences don’t imply or indicate good or evil; just different.

The next time you see someone different than you, will you see them as human, or as something else, and less than you?
__________________

Derek Hatcher is a retired Information Technology SME (Subject Matter Expert) originally from Chicago. Before moving to Cuenca, he lived and worked in Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Sweden and Croatia.  His interests include travel, music (jazz and blues), information technology, fitness exercise, sports, cooking  and Christianity.

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