I believe race is beautiful.
I have lived on this blue-green planet for nearly twenty years, not very long, but long enough to realize that I have no answers to the problems of race, in America or the world. So while I write about race I write about what race looks like to me. This story is superficial. This story is about color.
Do you believe in “pre-memories”? Memories you have before you can really remember anything? I certainly do. I know that I have “pre-memories” because before my parents got divorced and my father became only a voice in the telephone and on cassette tapes that he’d mail to me, he taught me about color.
In the years before I was born my father was a “professional artist” a bit of an oxymoron amongst the self-proclaimed bohemians that survived from job to job, coloring cells, painting murals and as he did, refurnishing furniture. He lived in Washington DC. One could survive in a city like that as an artist, if you were talented enough.
He believed as I do that race is beautiful because color is beautiful. To paint is to create and when you create colors, especially skin tones there is almost no limit to your ability and imagination. As a child I abhorred the words “black” and “white” not because they were politically loaded but because they were laughably unimaginative.
Even in Crayola’s attempt to create colors they did better than just black and white. Those colors where never used when drawing people. Crayola was my childhood medium: humble by comparison to the masterful works of artists in history, but fairly sophisticated to my two-year-old eyes and my clumsy hands.
When I lived in DC with my father all race meant to me was grabbing a different crayon. In daycare my skin color was the minority. My pale Nordic skin made me a marshmallow in a jar a jelly beans. My baby sitter, an immigrant named Josephina taught me Spanish much to the dismay of my parents who were slowly losing the ability to communicate with me.
Life got harder as I grew up. I left my father, I moved to the Midwest, and suddenly colors didn’t mean what they used to. I began to see in black and white, pun very much intended. I grew up comfortable in an environment where everyone was much more similar. Colors still caught my eye, too much sun, red, and too much fake sun, orange, my grandma’s skin was becoming blue as her veins became apparent, but it wouldn’t be until college that I would sit back and consider what colors once meant to me.
In my second year of college, studying journalism, I was assigned a story to study race on campus. I interviewed students and faculty members and professors. I didn’t find any new revelations on race relations, but I rediscovered how beautiful color is. How color shapes us, how it can define us or destroy us. How it creates who we are. I realized that despite the problems race has caused the world, color is still beautiful.
And so I believe race is beautiful.
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