Watercolor on Paper | 24″ x 18″
“I don’t care if a person is red, blue, purple, or green. I don’t see color, all I see is the person on the inside.” We’ve all heard statements similar to this as a combatant to bigotry. True, they sound enlightened and “post-racial”, yet in all honestly that statement, and statements like it are complete self-righteous bullshit. We are ingrained to see color. Color, or essentially the perception of light by our eyes and brains, is a fundamental ordering system that helps us determine and organize perceptual differences. The perception of color is one of our purest and most important survival instincts. However “Color” is not a true “thing”. “Color” is a perception of different wavelengths of light. We understand one color by comparing and contrasting it to another color. We know what red is when compared to blue, but it’s hard to say what red actually in the absence of other colors. The Lifesavers, is a study of color perception on a theoretical and social level. In May of 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent at The Atlantic, wrote a feature entitled The Case for Reparations. In the well-researched and extensive feature, Coates argues that African-Americans are due reparations as a result of being victimized by a fundamentally racist American system. One of the stronger images used by Coates to fortify his thesis was of a lynching that took place in 1920 in Center, TX. The image shows the lower legs of a 16-year-old boy hanging from a tree. His face and torso are cropped out of the image and his feet dangle just above a crowd of white men and boys of various ages. Their expressions collectively produce a feeling of stoic pride and defiance. In the case of American bigotry and its Jim Crow past, it’s easy to place racist attitudes within one social group, such as “Southern red-necks” for example. With The Lifesavers I wanted to explore racism not as a violent act committed against blacks by whites, but rather racism as it is manifested in our personal preferences, perceptions and comparisons of various colors.