Seeing Color

Recently I had a dream where I was floating amongst pieces of colorful stained glass. The light was so vibrant that it was turning my skin into a kaleidoscope of colors. It was a trip!

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I’m starting to dream in color. It’s a sign that this stained glass window project really has gripped me, hopefully in a good way.

Even my spouse Jesse, who is legally color blind, has enjoyed accompanying me in this stained glass inquiry (at least so far!). This coming week we will travel together to Harrisonburg, VA, and spend time with a Mennonite-raised professional stained glass artist. He’s going to show us around churches in Harrisonburg where his stained glass creations are featured.

The stained glass colors and color combinations will no doubt be different in every space.

In many ways this whole inquiry into stained glass is my attempt at learning to see more deeply and in color, or with color in mind. I’m trying to intentionally work against what I learned from so many 80s pop songs fantasizing a color-blind world. I’m even having to revisit one of my favorite Janet Jackson songs, Rhythm Nation, where she sings:

We are a nation with no geographic boundaries
Bound together through our beliefs
We are like-minded individuals
Sharing a common vision
Pushing toward a world rid of color lines

While I still think it’s a great tune, I’m taking cues from an older Janet Jackson who now sings in, “I should have known better”–

I had this great epiphany
And rhythm nation was the dream
I guess next time I’ll know better

This utopian view of a color blind world or a world rid of color lines leads to so many problems. Speaking for myself, I’m in the process of trying to unlearn this “we are all like-minded individuals” way of thinking. Instead, I’m trying to learn how to analyze and interpret and SEE difference and injustices across color lines. And this includes me appreciating how my own skin color and culture impacts how I see and carry myself in the world, and how I treat others. So in short, I am trying to unlearn my tendency to minimize difference, which I believe stunts true progress toward a world where we can interact more respectfully across color lines.

Learning to see more deeply across color lines has even made me think twice about our Rainbow welcome statement:  We strive to welcome everyone without regard to race, ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and economic or other life circumstances.

I’m curious about the words “without regard.” Is that minimizing language? What if, instead, our welcome extended across these diverse realities of race, ethnic identity, gender, age, etc.? Perhaps we could try this on for size: Our welcome extends across differences of race, ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and economic or other life circumstances.

Reactions?

I look forward to sharing more pictures and reflections soon, hopefully of the most vibrant colors and varieties!

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1 Response to Seeing Color

  1. clifh says:

    Now that you’ve pointed out the term “without regard” I can see that it has some of the problematic connotations of the phrase “I don’t see color” (i.e. I’m blind to race). “Without regard” can be interpreted as failure to acknowledge the many complicated issues relating to “race, ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and economic or other life circumstances.”

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