Four years ago I wrote a post on the importance of colour in our lives. Today, on International Color Day, I revisit a favourite subject — but with a twist.
We’re meant to appreciate how colours influence us on this Day. Because colour evokes feeling. It arouses emotion. It affects our mood, behaviour, productivity. We perceive different colours to mean different things; the following list gives an American interpretation of perceived meanings:
- Red: Excitement – Love – Strength
- Yellow: Competence – Happiness
- Green: Good Taste – Envy – Relaxation
- Blue: Corporate – High Quality
- Pink: Sophistication – Sincerity
- Violet/Purple: Authority – Power
- Brown: Ruggedness
- Black: Grief – Fear
- White: Happiness – Purity.
Do you detect all colours suggest positive emotions and traits except black (plus an allusion to the green-eyed monster)? I was reminded of Muhammad Ali riffing on the words white and black during an interview in 1971. Angel food cake is white; devil’s food cake is chocolate. The President lives in the White House. Snow White is a princess; The Ugly Duckling is black. A black cat is bad luck. If I threaten you, I’m going to blackmail you. Ali also recalled that three days after winning an Olympic gold medal for the USA in 1960 he couldn’t get service in a downtown restaurant in his hometown of Louisville KY.
I am not racist. But am I antiracist? That question has preoccupied me for the past year since Black Lives Matter came to the fore. I’ve delved into articles, lectures and books on racism, its history and current state, against Blacks and Asians in particular. I’ve also learned more about microaggressions: “the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviours that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups.” For instance, black men talk about being followed closely in stores or getting on an elevator and seeing women, purses clutched, step nervously away.
In an illuminating Walrus Talks lecture Ritu Bhasin, a Sikh woman and inclusion professional, addresses cultural competence, stating it is wrong not to notice differences, wrong to be colour-blind. Instead, we must embrace the power of asking and sharing about differences. Only then will we understand biases, blind spots, misunderstandings, stereotypes, intolerances and the “isms”: racism, genderism, sexism, etc. She even offers a formula for asking people about their difference. Respectfully. She concludes by affirming resilience and empathy are critical for an inclusive society.
After tennis the other day, our son and I encountered an unlikely looking player coming onto the court: an older, grizzled, long-haired man, slightly high, mumbled a few words to us. Brandon said a white guy who looks like that is called a hippie, a black man’s a crackhead. Sad, but true — and an example of implicit bias.
I will continue to celebrate colour, to absorb its beneficial effects whether I’m observing nature, wearing happy hues, eating the rainbow or accenting our home. And I will mention the colour black positively. For instance, I can report our bank account is in the black. •
P.S. The terms colour-conscious and colour-inclusive casting are replacing colour-blind in the entertainment industry.
P.P.S. “Be colour brave, rather than colour-blind,” advises Mellody Hobson, a black businesswoman and former chair of DreamWorks Animation.