Pondering the lessons of colors

October 31, 2021

It is about this time of year that we have both observed and admired the changing colors of the leaves on our trees. In fact, many of us have even traveled to the New England states to view that changing foliage. We have gone as far as to photograph all the shapes and sizes, and publish these pictures in many books which we exchange one with the other, and purchase at our favorite store or online. Yes, a substantial number of us are obsessed with the colors of the leaves on our trees in the autumn. Some of us have been known to pluck one or two of these no-longer-green leaves, press them with a lukewarm iron, and place them between pages in a favorite or significant book for future reference. We must admit that these varieties of colors and shapes are indeed enjoyable and wondrous to view. We have absolutely no problem with these assorted colors.

Crayons for children and for the creative come in eight, 16, and even 64 colors. We buy and admire that variety of diversity too, which produce such outstanding finished products on canvas, not to mention those pieces of construction paper placed by magnet onto the refrigerator.

Here is the $64,000 Question – ask your (grand)parents about this reference!

Why do many of us seem to have a different relationship or feeling when it comes to colors of human beings? There appears to be a built-in aversion to colors when it comes to people. Perhaps it is that they do not change colors, but merely remain as the color of their birth. Imagine if we all changed colors in the fall and looked different from the way we did in the spring! Absurd, indeed, but a concept worthy of consideration, only because it may ease some tensions which many of us currently experience. The point is that we, like the leaves, are all the same color at the base, and change colors as a result of nature, namely, our countries of origin, where sunshine or lack thereof had a strong influence on our respective hues.

The leaves come to us in a myriad of not just colors but also designs, and we observe their transformations with joy each year. Well, perhaps not that much joy when we have to rake and bag the ones which fall from the trees when there is no longer life therein. It seems that even with the colors of leaves about which we have spent some words speaking so kindly and warmly, there is a downside. And our crayons – they break, soften, or somehow turn up missing. Oh no, is it something about colors in general which defies a perpetual silver lining? Even clouds which appear to be similar in color do have varying shades, and we know the results of their bursts at times. Heavy rains which are indeed wet and ofttimes dangerous, as we have experienced in some parts of the country recently.

It appears that the best point of view is to accept colors for what they are, beautiful and wondrous, and sometimes a little uneasy both to behold and to appreciate. What is real is that we as human beings are not all the same color, and never have been, and if at some point, we were a singular color when the planet was in its infancy, we are no longer. Our own personal foliage has changed over the centuries, fallen off, and then regenerated at a later age, leaving the myriad of colors of the human race which we currently enjoy. There is no doubt that the acceptance of human colors may not be as easy as those in the fall leaves and crayons (even magenta), but it is certainly possible for all of us to accept one another and peacefully coexist. After all, they’re only colors!

  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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