Random Thoughts On The Concept Of ‘Colour’

I’ve never had any problem with being called black. As a matter of fact, I still don’t. I am Nigerian. I am African. I have dark coloured skin, a tad bit lighter than a shade of milk chocolate, but what does that have to do with anything? I am human and I presume, you are too. The fact that we’ve chosen to refer to broad segments of the human race with simplistic colour codes as if we were making it easy to memorise it for an exam hasn’t bothered me at all; white, brown, black and a variation of the ‘whites’ some call ‘ginger’ (notice that these colour codes only refer to people from certain regions. What about the others?) We could go on debating the proper way to address each other for months on end, with everyone bringing valid views, but, I’d like to think, it’s better we identify each other by their nationalities instead, so that we can do away with colour segmentation (although, I don’t think it can be, especially on a socio-cultural level, mainly because of the peculiarities that belong to each people group). I like what the playwright and poet, Africa Ukoh once said, ‘the human race is not a packet of crayons’. Interestingly, forms that I fill in UK keep grouping me as ‘Black British’ even though they didn’t give me a red passport (or, as the tag suggests, a blackish-red passport), nor at the very least, free entry here, but that’s a matter for another day.

In Nigeria, ‘race’ (whatever that means) isn’t an issue (at least, not to my knowledge). Tribalism on the other hand, is one endemic ill that has plagued my country since (before) her independence. I do believe however, it’s lost a great deal of its stronghold as (to the best of my knowledge) our fathers have successfully raised my generation to not care a hair’s breadth about the ethnicity of another, to not use one’s tribe as a measure of their worth, character, employability and yes, marriage-ability (bear in mind, I did not say that this issue has disappeared… at least, not yet). But, I digress, I was talking about the use of (a) certain hue(s) to shade segments into our humanity. This becomes a problem when it serves as a basis of evaluation and judgement of our individualities as if the creator was ludicrous to have used a saturated colour palette when He was painting our breed. This problem, we all know (or have read about) very well, for it is a full-fledged and undeniable history (and still an on-going part) of the human race. The sores of its wound and the sins of our fathers are perhaps, I think, why some people consider this a taboo subject.

However, I have recently grown suspicious (maybe even, mildly irritated) by a frame of reference that is quite popular in its use. It is the caption, ‘people of colour’ (I find no reason to italize, embolden or capitalize it). I do not understand what it means. I do not know what it seeks to suggest. Is the person who refers to others as ‘coloured’ seeking to say that they are colourless? Is it that they are translucent? Is there a transparent group of humans that we haven’t identified in our biology text books? What belies the notion that some people are ‘coloured’ and others aren’t? What skin tone is theirs then? The average smartphone is equipped with a 7-megapixel (+/-) camera. Meaning that it has the capacity to detect and capture 7 million colour textures (The human eye is reported to have an estimated 576 megapixels – 7MP, they say, are what’s functional), surely, by God, we could find a shade that suits you.

I can’t help but wonder, when you say, ‘people of colour’, what exactly do you mean?
When you say, ‘people of colour’, where do you place yourself in this scheme?

Yours with a quill

Photo location: Swanley (near the train station), England

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