Racial Colorblindness from a Color Blind Man’s Eyes

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by John Flowers

Hi, I’m John. I’m colorblind, but not racially colorblind. Let’s talk about it.

When I was in the first grade, I found out that I was colorblind. I had never understood how folks could unwrap a crayon and still know what color they were using. I had to study the crayon and compare it to others to try to figure out what I was about to put down on the paper. 

The cat was out of the bag when my teacher called my parents to ask them about my ability to see colors. The teacher told them that I had colored a leprechaun brown and made her hair green in my illustrations. 

Apparently that was not correct.

This condition was passed down to me from my mother, who got the gene from her father. She was not colorblind, but she had the hidden trait available, which I received in my DNA.

Here is an example of what it means to see through colorblind eyes:

(If they look nearly the same to you, welcome to colorblindness!)

These color wheels are set up so that the true colors have a white background, and the false colors have a black background. It is hard to approximate color deficiency on a device, but this looks really close to me.

One day, when I was 33 years old, I got a special pair of sunglasses that filters out some of the confusing color spectrum frequencies (SCIENCE!!). The glasses gave me the chance to see some extra colors, but didn’t fix the problem because I am still missing lots of color receptors in my eyes.

I was at the Biltmore Estate grounds in North Carolina when I put them on for the first time.

Drumroll, please.

For the first time in my life, I could see purple. 

I cried. I didn’t have words. 

I’m getting a bit choked up right now just thinking about it. Purple is like blue, but alive. It may be my new favorite color (though I’m not sure my old one counted since I don’t know if I even actually ever saw it). 

According to the color wheels above, my wife says that only about 3 of the 12 colors are close to the same as normal color vision. That means I can only perceive about 25% of what is actually available. According to various other online resources, I probably see between 10-20% of the color spectrum, out of all the thousands or millions of hues and shades.

My mom cried when I showed her a picture of the way I see colors. It is indeed a sad reality when I stop to think about it. 

Here is my bone to pick with the idea of being racially colorblind: that reality is extremely unfortunate.

Why would you want to settle for only 25% of the beauty in the world? Why would you want to limit your experience of humanity and creation to just a quarter of what is possible? 

Genesis 1:26-27 shows us that God made mankind in His image. That doesn’t just mean that we are a triune being with body, soul, and spirit. We know that all of humanity came from two people: Adam and Eve. So, all diversity on earth originated from people who were made in God’s image and likeness. The diversity we see today must have come from that likeness. That means that the fullness of God’s image is so complex that it can be distributed through billions of humans and maintain integrity. No one who has ever lived has been made in the image of anyone else. There are no repeats in humanity, so God is still expressing Himself.

In fact, genetics tell us that even clones, who have the exact same DNA, cannot ever be exactly identical. If we were all created in His image, and cannot possibly be the same as another human, then there must be value in all of the different expressions of humankind.

Have you ever seen India? There is some wild diversity, color, beauty, generosity, and art to be found among its people.

Have you ever seen Haiti? The people are warm, inviting, and extremely hard working. I have never seen more entrepreneurs per square mile.

Someone from every culture and people group will be present in Heaven. What if I could enjoy them now?

2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV) says: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”

This is a really important verse, which is used by Paul to help people remove barriers to loving people, not to put more up. We don’t use the outward appearance (v. 12) to write people off, but we seek to relate to them based on a spiritual-being connection. We don’t strip people of their fleshly appearance to treat them as common. We choose instead to connect with their hearts and spirits to actively participate in the work of reconciliation! (v. 18) We can choose to see people’s flesh as a reminder that they have lived a different life experience, and that I can learn about Abba from them (whether they know it or not). 

One thing that I have learned from my friendships, marriage, and family, is that I will never know the exact grace that the Lord pours out on others because their life is inherently not my own. When I hear the testimony of someone who has been through a hardship or trial which I have not endured, I get a glimpse of God’s glory that I wouldn’t see on my own. I need the experience of others to improve my understanding and experience of God. I believe this is part of why we have 4 Gospels in the Bible instead of just one. In order to better know the heart of God, I get to learn what life is like for others. To see my fellow human’s strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures is to get a peek into how God is actively loving them, right where they are.

This goes way beyond the conversation of race and ethnicity which is prevalent in mass media and social media today. It touches on the idea of any ideology or theology which divides the church into groups (which won’t exist in Heaven). We can be “color blind” in lots of ways.

So what, who cares?

I should. You should.

Let’s ask ourselves some questions. 

  • Did I inherit ways of seeing people from my parents or grandparents?
  • Is it possible that there are aspects of God hidden in the cultures and physical expressions of people who are different from me? 
  • What could I learn about the heart of God by finding value in other people’s lives and their faith journey?
  • What healing can I receive by championing the healing of others?

Choosing “color blindness” is choosing to settle for less of God.

Join Will, Matt, Chad, and Mike on the topic of racial reconciliation live at The Table Gathering 2020!

John Flowers

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