Saturday, April 09, 2011

Les Couleurs de Vie

I might be biased--okay, I know I'm biased--but I think my family happens to be more than a little bit attractive, as families go. We're multi-ethnic and we come in all shades. Among my cousins and siblings, there are some who are as brown as dark chocolate and others with no more than a bit of peach tint to their skin. My oldest brother is very fair and golden. His hair was reddish when he was born, but has darkened into a medium-to-dark brown now that he's an adult. He has always had freckles on his face and he gets even more if he spends any time outside without sunscreen. My younger brother and I are the exact same color as a caramel candy. My youngest brother is the color of honey, golden brown.

For several reasons, the lightness/darkness of my family tends to alternate each generation. My mother and her siblings were mostly pale to light brown in color. Their children mostly range from light brown to dark brown. This latest generation is really, really pale for the most part. My oldest brother, who was the lightest of all my mother's children, has three sons and two of them are milk chocolate. The rest of the kids café au lait to what would be generous to describe as barely peach. The youngest of my nieces and nephews has blond hair and blue eyes, like his mother. That kid is going to burn to a crisp if they don't teach him to wear sun-block!

I remember being a child and drawing lots of pictures. There were lots of projects in elementary school where the teacher would have us take out our crayons and draw our families at dinner, during the holidays, playing outside, et cetera. It would have been nice to be able to color my family so that it actually looked like my family and not just some random group of people standing next to each other.

If you were using the basic pack of markers, mixing them together (in an attempt to create a color close to what I needed) just turned into muddy-looking blotches. Crayons were a little bit better when it comes to blending colors, but not by much. The waxy base made it possible to do some color mixing on a piece of paper, but nothing consistent enough to form a definite shade. It seemed that they really weren't designed to be layered or combined. That meant everyone in my family had to be depicted as dark brown or black or not colored at all.

As this article points out, Crayola did offer a variety of flesh-colored crayons in its 64 count pack. However, those crayons were really thin and little kids generally don't have the dexterity to use them without accidentally snapping them in half, so our first few elementary school teachers wouldn't let us bring them to class. I remember being really excited when the teacher's list of school supplies said that we'd be using the box of 64 crayons. I organized and re-organized the crayons in a million different ways. They were great! You could depict all sorts of things with those added shades and colors. They made it a lot easier to portray objects and people exactly how you wanted them to look. It took away the frustration and limitations that went along with trying to depict an overwhelmingly diverse world, mostly filled with non-white people, using only 8 dull colors.

My daughter, VanGoghGirl, is multi-ethnic/multi-racial. When she was young and we were having a conversation about skin color, she said that I was brown, but she was "brownge". I asked her what "brownge" was and she said "It's kinda brown and kind of orangey, too". I thought that explanation was adorable and very accurate. She knew that we do look alike in many ways, but her skin is different from mine. She loved her own tone and wanted to find the perfect way to describe herself.

Unfortunately, there was no "brownge" crayon or marker for her to use. Now Crayola has come out with a new product line. They are calling it their "Multicultural Colors". They come in packs with eight different flesh-toned colors. These markers would have been great for my "brownge" little girl. It's sad that there are folks who think that this product is just to appease "liberals". It denigrates the needs of the majority of children and asserts that loving the body that the Creator gave them is essentially worthless and laughable.

3 comments:

Rootietoot said...

When my oldest child (now 23) was just figuring out drawing and colors at about 5(he's the artist in the family), he expressed great frustration at the lack of color variations for skin tone, and said "mom, I don't know a single black person. There's a million shades of brown people, and even the white person has freckles." he only knew one white person, a redhead in his class. (I suppose my family is white, but actually we're kind of pale peachy-tan, he was clear about that)I was thrilled for him when they came out with the multiracial crayons-liberal appeasement my aunt's fanny...artists need to be able to have choices, and kids care so literal.
One of my best friends is a very dark Ethiopian with a fairly yellow Philippino husband, and their 3 children range in light tan-yellow like him to dark brown like her. I predict (and hope) one day that humanity will all be so blended that you won't be able to look at someone and put them in some racial box, like people do today.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

bint alshamsa said...

That last sentence sums up my hopes and predictions, too. I think that children of today are a lot less inclined to be prejudiced when it comes to race and ethnicity. There are several teen couples at my daughter's high school where one child is Black and the other is Asian. When I was in high school, there were a few Asian girls who dated white guys, but even that was frowned upon by the second generation immigrant Vietnamese-American kids. The Vietnamese-American and African-American kids tended to be very distrustful towards each other and sometimes even a bit hostile. When I told this to my daughter, she looked at me with her head cocked to the side as if she thought I was nuts or had a second head growing out of my neck. I felt really sheepish, because I couldn't even explain exactly WHY things were like that when I was young.

My own daughter couldn't care less about race and I know she isn't the only one. If I were a person who gambles, I'd give race maybe two or three more generations before it almost completely disappears as the dominant way that most people in America define and describe others.