Color: Does it Hurt?

On August 28, 1963, over 250,000 people marched in Washington D.C to stand for equality. A situation that has been going on for centuries, men and women were treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. The problem lingers to the twenty-first century. During the first half of the semester at a new dance studio, I have been seen as the Asian girl with characteristics that other dancers find uncanny or disturbing. In many cases, the observers had not formally met who they are discriminating. They went right to judging based on the color of the other’s skin. Even though people say color does not change the way they think, the color of an object changes the perception of that object.

People react to color differently which then affects their actions. Each man, woman, and child have  different reactions to color. For instance, someone could think yellow is a nice, happy color while another person believes yellow is disgusting and too bright to even look at. This affects the way they look at objects. A yellow toy could be happy or disgusting which could lead to whether or not a child wants to play with it. The child’s reaction toward the toy’s color came naturally; however, sometimes children are taught to react to certain colors. When Martin Luther King Jr. was young, he played with a boy who was white. When they got older, the white boy’s parents prohibited the two children from playing because Martin’s skin color was different. Martin’s friend soon was taught that people with Martin’s skin color are ruthless and dirty. If King’s friend was not educated by his parent’s opinion, the two children would have remained friends.

Although colors can evoke to different reactions, they also have broadly agreed-upon symbolic meaning. Symbolism is creating symbols to represent characteristics or ideas. Opinion making and symbolism of color are different. Symbolism in color has a fixed idea of what it means. For example, grey represents either intelligence or blandness. Opinion-making is the way someone feels about the color. Grey could be too boring and unappealing. Although the example have similar ideas of the color grey, the opinion is one of hundreds, and having certain words like “too” emphasizes the emotion of their opinion. Whereas in symbolism, the idea is established and agreed upon. Another example is the color black. Black could be represented as mystery or protection while someone’s reaction could be too dark and deadly. This example of the color black has two different perspectives. Despite that, both symbolism and opinions do not touch the characteristics of the object.

Some people claim that color does not affect their actions, but real life situations prove otherwise. It is true that some people are color blind or blind which gives them the inability to see color, but for those who can see color, people are objects, and people perceive people. There is color on people; their skin, hair, eyes are perceived by other people. Stereotypes still influence people’s interactions. Even color-blind people still see shades and could hold a belief that blonde haired women are unsophisticated or dark skinned men are hostile. In my own experience as a girl with an Asian-standard appearance, I have been exposed to people’s reactions to the colors I carry. It is unusual to see a girl with dark hair and dark, small eyes at a dance studio dancing. Based on my hair, eye, and skin color, my fellow dancers assume that I participate in dance for college applications, and that I didn’t care about dance as a hobby or passion. Their parents assume that since I’m enrolled in a lot of dance classes, I am failing academics. There have been cases where dancers devote their whole lives to dance and eventually drop school because they couldn’t keep their grades up which is why they might think I have failing grades. I once had two mothers looking at me as I walk by, and they whispered in each other’s ears, “Why is she here? Shouldn’t she be studying for some advanced course? …maybe she doesn’t care.” Other times I hear, “She’s here so often, she’s probably doing athletics as a major instead of something useful.” or “That Asian should just leave.” In reality, I like dance, and I’m a straight-A student in school. Some dancers opened up to me and became my friends because they got to know me. Others judge me based on my features, make assumptions, and then ignore me. This does not happen to just me; situations like this happen to any person of color. Some see their appearance and judge the person. They do not go any deeper than that.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” was projected by Martin Luther King Jr, a man that help led the Civil Rights Movement. He did not want his children to be assessed based on the color of their skin. He wanted them to be looked by their qualities. Color is an amazing part of living life, but living life with people perceiving traits grounded from color is not a life to live.