The limitation of color

Why do we need color to classify humans and divide them into different races? Each time I tell my students that the Mundani language, which I spoke as a child has only three colors, they are shocked. They should be because if you are used to the colors of the rainbow, it will not make sense for you to hear that there are people who see only three colors. I usually ask my students to identify these colors.

Most of the students will mention black and white, but the third color always eludes them. I then proceed to let them know that the colors are black, white, and red. Obviously, the next question from the students is “What about yellow, purple, blue, green, etc.?”

I usually tell my students jokingly that we do not care about those colors because we want to keep life simple. Take, for example, green is black in the Mundani language, yellow is red. In other words, all the dark colors are black, and the light colors are red, and white is white.

You may be saying that the Mundani people are not sophisticated enough to identify that there is a difference between yellow and red and yellow should never be called red. There may even be a part of you that is saying that these people are primitive and uncivilized.

How could they miss something so obvious as differentiating between green and black? What in the world do they think when they say that green, blue, and purple colors are all black? What about the black color itself? When these people place green, purple, and blue side by side, don’t they see that the colors are different?

You are right in asking these questions. Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions because these people live their lives comfortably with just three colors.

Wait a minute! What about those of us who are in more “sophisticated” societies and have fine-tuned the art of color classifications scheme? Are we really that advanced and sophisticated? It seems when it comes to the color of the human skin, we too are “primitive and unsophisticated.”

How did we settle down on this white and black classification of the human skin? Or referring just referring to some people as colored? Really? Does this mean that some people are uncolored or what?

By the way, in the Mundani language, white people are called red people maybe because their encounter with whites under tropical conditions revealed that the whites are actually red.

Please bear with me as I point out the absurdity of using color to divide the human race into different races. While society might have accepted this faulty and unfounded color classification scheme, it is time to move away from it. If we want to use color, we should ensure that all the different color skin tones are represented. For example, my hair is black, but my skin is chocolate brown, but I am classified as a black African. I am not trying to refuse or reject the color of my skin, but I am saying that if this must be used, it should properly be identified as such.

The problem with the present sweeping and arbitrary color classification scheme is the baggage that is associated with it.

Historically, these colors were used for reasons that were not always good. Consider the case of Africa that was called the dark continent. This was a place of death, crudeness, and backwardness. By implication, her people are dark, and this darkness is associated with evil, monsters, and the devil, to say the least. Dark, impure, backward, primitive, and unsophisticated are not the labels that anybody wants to be associated with. Unfortunately, the so-called black race has been mired with these stereotypes for such a long time that it is almost the norm.

Consider the use of the white color to signify purity, sophistication, advancement, and all that is good. That is why the angels are always clothed in white and the demons in black, even though the Bible says the devil was one of the most beautiful archangels and appears as an angel of light.

Before you dismiss the concerns that have been expressed about the current color classification scheme, you should consider the fact that racism has been fueled and sustained by this color scheme. Whiteness is immediately associated with superiority, sophistication, and advancement. At the same time, black is backward, underdeveloped, and inferior.

If you think this is a bogus claim, you should look at the multi-billion industry of skin lightening cream that is used in all cultures across the globe because it is deeply rooted in some people’s psyche that they must lighten their skin to join the “superior class”. This is a sad reality that is practiced in every continent, and it is not limited to blacks alone.

Racism, as bogus as it is, will still be used, but it will be used within the confines of the understanding that it is a social construct and has nothing to do with the human race because there is no such thing as the White race, Black race, Asian race, or Hispanic race.

For those who insist on saying that there is a Black, White, or whatever race based on the amount of melanin in somebody’s skin, I will beg to differ. Nobody ever defines a house solely on its color. Why then should we define human beings based solely on the amount of melanin in their body?

As a geoscientist, it is common knowledge that the color of a mineral is one of the most unreliable characteristics that can be used to describe it. The reason is that some minerals have different colors, for example, you have rose quartz, smoky quartz, milky quartz, amethyst, citrine, etc. The other reason color is not such a good idea is because different minerals have the same color. Therefore, any geologist knows that the best way to test the true color of a mineral is to use the streak of that particular mineral. The streak is the color of the power of the mineral.

Did Martin Luther King, Jr. not say that “Judge not a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character”? [1]

Dr. Luther King, Jr. was correct, but it seems the society still has to catch up with the reality of he was talking about. While society may be used to using all these labels to classify people for whatever purpose, these labels have caused more harm than good. There is a lot to a label or a name. It is amazing that each time God wants to do some unique in somebody’s life, He changes their name because there is power in what we program in our subconscious minds.

If we as a society say that we are color-blind, then it is time to get rid of the different classes that have been created based on skin color.

The war against racism will never be completely won until we start identifying people for who they are, not by whatever color class we place them under. The white/black divide is bogus and has done more harm than good. Some may argue that we are used to these terms and there is no point refusing the fact that there are whites and blacks. It seems when it comes to white, we just created a new color because I have yet to see somebody that looks like a white sheet of paper. In other words, the white we call white is actually a social construct that is false.

Therefore, this supports the idea that the use of color to classify humans does not have the right intentions. It is a tool of discrimination, subjugation, and control.

Now is the time to move beyond using color to identify people. We are all humans and should be looked upon like that.

It is absurd to use the color of somebody’s skin to classify them or worse, force them into some arbitrary human race. You can help by stop calling people black or white. Call them by their name, and this is good enough.

While some take pride in the so-called blackness or whiteness, it is a false identity that should be discarded by all. We are humans, and each and every one of us has a name that should be used to identify us. If we want to put an end to racism, society must make a conscious decision to move away from this skin color classification that is currently being used.

I am acutely aware of the fact that dropping off the current classification scheme will not resolve the issue of racism because the problem, as we are going to see, is deeper than skin color and bigger than racism itself.

All society is doing is using racism to dress a far dangerous problem that has plagued mankind since the Garden of Eden.

We are going to realize that to find our way out of this quagmire, we must go back to where things went terribly wrong. It is time to go back to the Garden of Eden and see if there are clues to the way forward for humanity. It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting to achieve different results. What we are used to, too, is calling people racist, hateful, and bigoted. This has not achieved anything because racism is still here.

Many laws have been passed to curb racism, and this has brought some limited success because laws may constrain people and deter them from manifesting the intent of their hearts, but they do not change hearts. This is why segregation is still rampant at 9:00 am on Sunday mornings across the United States of America.

Before you get excited that I am touching the root of the problem, I would like to remind you that the segregation that we see each Sunday morning is not just between whites and blacks. It is also between blacks and blacks.

For example, people from Nigeria still get segregated according to different Nigerian ethnic groups. One of the reasons is that people like “their own”, the familiar, predictable, and comfortable. However, we are not supposed to only focus on what is comfortably familiar and predictable because, in the long run, it erodes social cohesion.

To know each other and dismantle some of the prevalent stereotypes, there is a need for all people to interact with each other under different circumstances.


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Dr. Eric Tangumonkem, Author, Inspiration Speaker

My mission is to inspire, equip and motivate people from all works of life to become aware of the greater possibilities for their own lives and to take ACTION.