As Simple as Black & White

Once, when I was 7 or 8, I was having an argument with a ten year old at school.  For reasons long forgotten, she said something about being black and I said “Yeah?  Well?  You’re black because you’re so rude“.

Later, in the Headmaster’s office, I couldn’t explain what I had meant by this.

“Did you say she’s rude because she’s black?”
“No, sir I-”
“Did you say she’s black because she’s rude?”
“Yes sir but I-”
“What did you mean?”
“Sir, my Dad is black, I-”

knew what I meant.  I meant “black” as in “evil”,”black” as in “darkness”, “black” as in the then common saying “nah, that is just dark man!”

Light was always good: white a peaceful and pure colour, yellow the colour of the sun and the Virgin’s hair.  Dark was always the opposite.  I still can’t describe what I meant back then.  What I do know is that what I meant was not what I said.

I try to think very carefully now about how I use colour in my work, and in describing my moods.  I try to be clearly understood, because I know what it’s like not to be.


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