Color on Campus ... Treating People Of All Races Equally

September 3, 2009
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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students of different ethnicities
Color on campus

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Oh, how we carry on a love-hate relationship with color. Color, in all its vibrant variety, is one of the spices of life. It excites and stimulates the imagination.

Painters and photographers capture it on canvas. It is captured on the printed page in poetry and prose.

We marvel at the awesome beauty and bounty of nature’s parade of color – blossoms and flowers in spring and summer, the maple trees and evergreens in fall and winter.

And then, of course, we adorn our homes and bodies with colorful furnishings, fashions and works or art – yes, even body art.

Color, in all of its richness, is welcomed in every aspect of our lives except when it comes to other human beings – of color, that is.

When it comes to people, suddenly different colors and shades provoke closed-mindedness rather than openness, fear rather than friendliness, oppression rather than freedom, and the baseness within us rather than the beautiful.

Our schizophrenic relationship with color is age-old. We love color in things. We loathe it in human beings. History is replete with examples of humankind’s most unkind behavior toward others who do not look like us, dress like us, talk like us, worship like us, live like us, and are not the same color as us. Through the ages, many have fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice to resist and change this ugliness, and the injustice, discrimination and persecution perpetuated upon our fellow man because of the difference in color.

Imagine the possibilities if we could – if we would – appreciate the richness of different colors in people, just as we appreciate the richness of color in nature and in our own creations.

Imagine if we understood that every child, white, black, brown or yellow, has the same needs; caring parents, safe neighborhoods, good schools, an opportunity to dream and become whatever they dream of becoming.

Imagine if it became natural – a matter of unconscious practice – that every human, no matter their color, is given the benefit of the doubt and we treated all races equally when he or she applies for a job, submits an application for college, applies to buy a house, or rent an apartment.

If people of different colors were regarded with the same reverence and respect as the colors in nature, there would be no need for affirmative action, equal rights, equal employment protection, fair housing and other laws. Imagine if we were not required by law to do the right thing toward each other because it just came naturally.

The economic, social and educational caste systems created around color and because of color have done as much to imprison and deprive the perpetrators as the perpetrated.

Great strides and gains can be made if we would only try to better understand our conflicting feelings around color, beginning with the simple acknowledgement of the common color that runs through our veins and binds us all with the gift of life.

Just imagine what could happen if we ceased to allow insignificant differences in skin color to confuse and compromise the quality of life we share as neighbors, colleagues, students, fellow travelers on the world stage.

Just imagine.

What is the state of color on your campus?

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