Colorism

Aemen Iqbal, Featured Writer

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Hi, my name is Violet Purple and I’m from the Purple class, but I guess you could already tell by my name. I just thought I should tell you that early on, so you wouldn’t be confused and actually understand how life works here in Ms. Lily’s art class, Room 115. Here’s a quick rundown for those of you who are new. So basically, every art supply (my family and I are markers), is named according to their color and class. These have already been determined for you so you wouldn’t have to take that burden upon your young, fragile shoulders or so the dictating Reds say.

The truth is, even though no one truly ever admits it, there’s a lot of discrimination here in Closet 2, and it’s not by what type of material you are, more by your pigmentation. These classes were first set back when the first art supplies were brought into Room 115 when the school decided to turn the science class into an art studio. Upon arrival, the equipment came up with the idea of setting up some sort of order amongst themselves, a form of organization between their new profound republic. The Red colored pencils jumped at this opportunity and being the cleverest and most quick-witted, instantly announced that they should lead. They said that since they were the first color of the rainbow and a primary color, they most deserved to be in charge. Because the other crayons and paints weren’t as bright, they said that this seemed to be a sensible argument and without giving it much thought, agreed. Given these said statements, laws were set as well as social classes. The Reds started abusing their new power immediately, putting themselves at the top. The Orange were second, the Yellow third and so on. That’s why I thought you should know I’m a Purple, the lowest class. Well, besides the Not Colors. They’re every color not in the rainbow. They’re also forbidden, but I can still name a few. There used to be something called Pink which was created by mixing red and white. While we’re on the topic, you should know mixing has also been marked illegal for the last couple years, way before my family moved into the Bin from our old house, the box we were first packaged in. At least that’s what my Grandfather told me. He was thrown out last week. I really miss him, but I know if I show it, and the Reds find out, I’ll be in big trouble. Only colors from Class 1 to 3 are allowed to have emotions because they are considered “above” the other 3 remaining colors.

Anyway, back to the Not Colors. They were said to have been banished because they believed in equality of all colors and thought the different Classes portrayed colorism in disguise. They said any one color shouldn’t be given that much power or be able to rule like that. Of course, all the Pinks became outcasts for treason against their leaders and everyone who stood in support of them such as the Golds, Silvers, Browns as well as the Whites, Blacks and Greys were thrown out, too for “companionship of the enemy”. I honestly don’t agree with this punishment, I think it’s too harsh. Being sent to the Land of the Trash Can before breaking or falling out of working order is unjust. Being sent there early, before your time, is a miserable end, even for those who misbehave majorly.

Anyway, as you probably noticed, I’m not very concise and tend to get carried away. Back to the present. My best friend Rose is coming over today to draw with me. Or rather, I’ll draw, and she’ll paint because she’s a Paintbrush. That’s why I also invited my cousin, Lavender who’s a Paint. There would be no point in Rose coming over if there was no paint. I know, for a Purple, I’m smart.

                                   **************************

The Marker Bin opens and Rose walks in with her two escorts. In case in my most recent rant I forgot to mention, Rose is the head Red’s daughter. Her father, Mr. Red runs Room 115’s art supply laws and regulations. He’s the boss of the place in a sense and because of that, Rose is considered no less that royalty, with bodyguards and complete proper protocol. As she steps forward, the two guard pencils stand at the entrance protectively.

“Hey Violet,” she says sitting down. “Where’s Lavender?”

“She’ll be here soon, hopefully. You know she’s always late for everything and anyway, the paint drawer is a on the other side of the room. I wouldn’t be shocked if it takes her a while to get here,” I reply. As soon as I stop talking, the Bin opens again for the second time in the last five minutes. The guards at the door hold Lavender back as they ask her for her business here at the Marker residence, class, and her rank. “Like it isn’t obvious enough by just looking at her,” I can’t help but murmur. I mean, she’s a shade of purple, what class do you think she belongs to. But you know what the thing is, it’s straight-forward discrimination, flat-out colorism. The upper-class Colors simply enjoy making fun of us, but I ignore it like I always have. It’s just something you have to come to learn to deal with as a Purple.

“I’m here” Lavy sings out, announcing her more-than-evident arrival. “Let’s paint or, in my case, be painted.” She sits down and removes her cover, allowing Rose to dip her bristles in. I go and grab the paper and too sit down. I start making everything purple I can think of. Plums. Grapes. Even eggplants and cabbage. Somewhere between flowers and onions, my mom walks in and over exaggeratedly says hi to everyone in a way that probably sounds fake and clipped even to her.

“Hello children. How are you Rose? And Lavender you should come around more often. Your uncle and I love to have you here,” my mother exclaimed, smiling cheerfully. I can’t believe how obvious my mom was being. Lavender, we love to have you here. What about Rose?

“Mom, can I talk to you for a second? Privately.”

“Sure, I was thinking the same exact thing,” she said.

I pulled her to the side and said, “Mom, why are you always so mean to Rose? I mean, what has she ever done to you?”

“It’s not what she’s done to me, it’s what her father can do. Violet, I thought you knew better than that. She’s a Red, while we’re Purples. You two are trying to be friends against everything this society stands for. You don’t realize it, but Mr. Red doesn’t want some low-class Purple near his daughter. He thinks you’re using her to climb up the ranks, even though he himself set the laws allowing that to never happen. That’s why I don’t want Rose here. She doesn’t fit in. She walks around with top notch security like she owns the place. Do you see how the guards by the door have everyone in the Bin on edge? The markers are all annoyed with your friend. Lavender, on the other hand is fine. She’s one of us. You can have her here all-day, every day and no one would care, but it’s different with Rosetta.”

Sighing, I shake my head. “Mom, your right, but still . . .”

“But still, my dear, please try to limit how often Mr. Red’s daughter comes here. It brings an unwanted change in atmosphere. Things become tense and trust me, if Rose knew what was good for her, she wouldn’t visit here again.” With that my mother turned on her cap and left, leaving me feeling a little down and somewhat bleak.

The rest of the afternoon passed otherwise uneventful and though it was a matter of opinion, it seemed like a was a blessing. The next couple of days went by, like any other and nothing much really happened. Young, messy children came in and worked with us, scribbled actually, and left. Everything was normal up until one day where Mr. Red called for an emergency meeting. He said he only wanted one member from each family as a representative, because, “I don’t need an unnecessary crowd on the art tables.” Oh well. Whatever. It might sound rude of me saying so, but I could honestly care less. Of course, my father is not going to be at dinner today because of the meeting so that affects me, buts that’s about it.

The next day, after school ends, all the kids leave and Room 115 is locked closed, I go ask my mom if I can go to Rose’s house to see if she wants to go get our tips redone. Rose got her bristles conditioned last week after some first grader ruined their shape or, so Rose was saying. My own tip was drying out after that same first grader forgot to put my cap on. “So, can I go, Mom? I promise I’ll be really quick and won’t waste any time wandering around and will be back before dinner. Plus-”

“-No”

“No? What? Why?” I ask, shocked.

“We’ve been over this, Violet. I told you I didn’t want you hanging out with Rosetta. It leaves a bad impression on us. Furthermore, do you remember that meeting Mr. Red called a week or two ago?” When I nod, my mom continues. “Mr. Red’s sole purpose of holding that meeting was to publicly declare that he came up with a new law to help smoothly run our humble society. He announced that all artistic utensils are to only converse or communicate with those within their ranks and classes. I’m sorry sweetie, but that means you and Rosetta can’t be friends anymore. Or I suppose you can, just not talk to each other. Text or whatever it is you young Colors do. If you two are really that close, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a way to still make it through.” She wrapped and arm around me, offering comfort. She turned to leave but stopped. “I have no problem whatsoever with your friendship with Mr. Red’s daughter, just remember, is it worth being put out the way the Reds are trying to do to you? Do anything you what in life as long as it’s legal. Don’t put yourself out there, in the way of danger for Rose because if your situations were reversed, think how far your friend is willing to go for you. Is it the way you do for her? I just don’t want my daughter to get hurt, okay?” With one final sympathetic smile, my mom left to start getting ready for dinner.

I thought over what my mother had told me and concluded that she was right in her own place and I’m right I mine. Rose isn’t like that and never will be. Coming to this result, I got up and went to help my mother cook.

**************************

Life has been pretty weird ever since Mom told me Rose and I can’t be friends. I mean, if a student takes us both out at the same time to use us together, seeing each other and not acknowledging it would be really awkward, right? Apparently, she doesn’t know about the new law “Daddy” set and thinks the reason we haven’t been talking is because I’m mad at her or something. She can so delusional at times. She tried asking me what was wrong a few times, but according to the rules I couldn’t answer her, so I didn’t. Especially because I knew that’s what my mother would have wanted me to do. Shockingly, ignoring her wasn’t the hardest thing in the art room. Like what Mom said, I was finally learning to accept my place in the society I lived in, even though it continued to refuse me and my kind.

Over the course of the following month or two, not even, Mr. Red managed to assemble about twenty something meetings, one almost every other day. At each one, he gave a long speech about how all the art supplies, some more than others, were doing a great job with the smooth running of the place and how it couldn’t have been done without the dictatorship and supervision of the Reds. At the end, he would always announce the new decision he had come up with from the last convection. Every one of these new regulations somehow put the Blues and Purples down and restricted their rights. The latest ones were:

  • No pigment under and of the rank 3 is to leave their respective residences until all Reds and Oranges are off the streets
  • No pigment under and of the rank 3 is to be in the presence of a Red or an Orange unless to serve them
  • All pigments under and of the rank 3 are to present themselves in the fronts of their Bins when a human child comes to pick up an art supply

The purpose of the last one is clear. Everyone knows it, but only the brave dare says it. Reds want the other Colors to be used and not themselves so that they last longer. With their Color not being used, their lifespans will increase majorly compared to the equipment being handled regularly. How selfish of the Reds and the Oranges.

I can’t believe everyone is letting this go on. I also can’t believe that I once thought I accepted the way Room 115 was run. I go to find my mom, wanting to ask her something that’s been bothering me for a while. “Hey Mom, I was just wondering, why are the Reds the leaders?” I answer my own question before giving her the chance to speak. “I mean, I know. It’s because, way back when, when this art room was first stocked with original art supplies, the Reds at the time were the smartest utensils. But that’s not a hundred percent true currently, is it? As of right now, the next ruler is just going to be a direct descendent of the previous one or a sibling or even the spouse. Why is it like that? Why isn’t it the wisest Color of that time period crowned dictator? Doesn’t that seem fairer?” I pause for a second, awaiting a reply.

My mother sighs and blinks a few times before responding. “Violet my dear, you ask too many questions, ones you know I can’t answer. And things are the way they are, and they won’t change. You need to learn to live with it because life isn’t always fair. Rebelling against it is just going to make your own life harder and more miserable. Sweetie, I’ve said this before and going to say it again until the day I’m thrown out, do anything you want, just don’t disappoint me. Everything else is fine.”

And it’s the way she says it that makes me doubt she believes it herself. I think when she goes to help me understand, she tries to convince herself too. Either way, I now know what I’m going to do next.

******************************

The following morning I’m the first one up, full of energy even though I barely slept the night before. I was too busy planning how phase one of my plan would work. As every Marker goes about preparing for the day, like the wind I go around whispering in their ears, stirring up emotion. I know I threw oil on an open flame by what I was saying, but this was the only way to keep the dying embers within the population from extinguishing. I asked all of them three simple questions privately and according to their answer to the first question, I slightly verified the second and the same for the third. I went to Mint, my friend Swamp Green’s mother.

“Mrs. Green, I have a small survey for you. Do you mind answering some questions for me?” I batted my eyelashes at her and shot her an innocent look, one I used on my own mom, so I knew it always worked.

“Of course not Violet. What’s your question?” she asked.

“Mrs. Green, are you happy with life the way it is right now?” I was trying to give off the sort of vibe where she even if she was content, she would be put in a confused sort of state given the wording of what I was asking.

“Um . . .” she replied, “I don’t understand what you mean by that. Define happy.”

“Happy. Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. Do you feel that way about how the Room we live in is controlled and organized? As a Green, do you think you’re getting all the rights you deserve? Is there any room for improvement in any particular field of life in your opinion?” I take a second to breathe and let her try to form a response.

“While certain things could be better, I think I’m satisfied with the way things are. The recent stuff that went on with all these new laws and protocol is a little unfair by most standards, but within an environment like ours, someone must compromise. Why not it be us?”

I nodded even though I disagreed whole-heartedly. The only problem was, almost every Marker I had asked today had said something similar. They all were feeling or showing pleasure or contentment to some extent with where they were. Everyone was like a brain-less zombie, unaware of how they were being treated and didn’t know they contained the power to say no. All of them, each and every one but me. This was my fight. I was going to have to win these art supplies their freedom and liberty, justice and equality. For me, them and all our coming generations as one. On to phase two.

For all intents and purposes, I am not a liar, at least not a good one. That’s because of lack of practice. I never really ever had the need to, actually. Therefore, when I was acting strangely this evening, no one gave it a second thought. Like this morning, I went around talking to anyone who would bother listening, telling them Mr. Red had yet again called another meeting tonight. Though the only difference tonight was that instead of only one member of a family going, everyone was invited. They were to meet outside on the tables by the light boxes and there await further commands. Since no piece of equipment was ready to actually think for themselves, they all blindly followed. On to phase three.

So when Mom came to tell me get ready for we had a speech to go hear, I told her to go on without me, that I’ll be out shortly.

“Be quick. It’s getting dark out, I don’t want you far behind, alright?”

“I promise to be fast. I’ll only take a minute or two,” I said to her. In reality, it was going to be a while before I was ready.

As I stepped outside the Bin and walked towards the tables, I noticed a commotion by them. All the art supplies were bickering with one another. It seemed to be important because Mr. Red himself was here.

“What is the meaning of this?” He boomed. “Who dares impersonate me and call this convention? Whoever finds the vermin will be awarded with a promotion of rank, and the Person who did it . . . Well he or she will be charged for treason and banished to the Land off the Trash Can. You are all dismissed.” Mr. Red is breathing fire and I know this is my chance.

“No don’t leave. Everybody stays put.” When they all pause, I climb up on a higher platform, so I was seen clearly and continued. “Don’t you see what’s happening right now. When you were told there was going be a meeting today, you came running. Even the sick and injured because you knew if you didn’t there would be punishments. Consequences. I went around today asking anyone who cared if they were satisfied with their lives and the way they were passing by. Most of you said there was nothing you could do to make them better and so you were going to fell or show pleasure or contentment exactly where you are. Supposedly thinking, there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, being optimistic, it’s a good thing, but do you want to spend the rest of your lives like this? Don’t you want anything to change? To improve? Does anyone out there approve of these new laws being passed against them? If you want to live life like this, if you can tolerate this, okay then do it. But don’t force this upon your coming generations. Do you want your children to have to go through what you are forced to? Is this the fate you desire for your children’s destiny? Do you want your end to be in the Trash Can, alone and depressed? If you want change, a society with equality and better opportunity, help be build one. We will start by removing the dictating Reds and getting rid of the social classes. We can make Room 115 a great place to live. Under no one’s rule. Who’s with me?” I waited for a second, breathing hard. After a moment of hesitation, the crowd erupted in cheers. Everyone shouted out and celebrated.

I jumped off the box I climbed up on before my speech. Running to find my mom in the chaotic mob, I stumble upon her, crying. “What’s wrong, mom? As it something I said? Did I disappoint you?”

“No, definitely not. I am so proud of you, Violet. You stood up for yourself and fought, something supplies double your age are afraid a to do. I am immensely proud of you, my dear.”

And that’s the way this society went from a colorist republic to a happy, fair and equality based community.

 

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