Racism and Crayons…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

I know,

You read the headline and say, “He’s skating on thin ice”.

But, bear with me.

First of all, racism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized. The belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.”

“Racism” is not part of my being.

I learned that as a youngster, had it reinforced with my time in the United States Air Force and now we teach that to our family.

Now, the way we discuss “racism” around here is the “Blazing Saddles” approach.

We poke fun at the stereotypes that we see in that incredible Mel Brooks movie and it reminds us if we “really” feel that way, we’re wrong.

But that’s how we roll.

Now, while we’re being honest…

Can I tell you that the moniker “People of Color” irks me?

There are some who believe this identifier projects “a false unity” because it obscures the needs of Latinos and Asians.

Nothing can be pure white or pure black except unfiltered sunlight or the depths of a black hole.

Furthermore, white light comprises all hues on the visible light spectrum, and many consider black to be a color because you combine other pigments to create it on paper.

This is where crayons get involved.

Binney & Smith created Crayola crayons in 1903.

The original boxes had 8 crayons and they cost a nickel.

Today, Crayola lays claim to over 200 distinctive colors.

Including black and white.

In 1903, the 38 original colors included one identified as “Flesh Tint”.

In boxes of 51, there were no color names on the crayon wrappers. There was a “crayon number” and you had to match that number with the listing on the box to identify the “names” connected to the numbers.

“Flesh Tint” wasn’t available in a Crayola box from 1935-1939.

However, “Flesh Tint” was added back in 1939 to the Number 52 box and there it stayed…until 1944.

From 1944 to 1949, there we no Crayola boxes sold with the “Flesh Tint” crayon.

In 1949, the Number 48 box debuted and “Tint” was dropped so that crayon was identified simply as “Flesh”.

From 1948 until1956, the 24 and 48 boxes of Crayolas included “Flesh”.

In 1956, “Flesh” became “Pink Beige” but it almost immediately went back to “Flesh” in the 48 box.

There it stayed until 1962, when “Flesh” became “Peach” to help Crayola avoid any legal issues.

You thought “PC” was a modern day phenomena.

But “Flesh” was not the only color or hue subject to scrutiny.

In 1949, “Prussian Blue” was introduced.

It became “Midnight Blue” in 1958 after teachers voiced concerns that “Prussian Blue” wasn’t “Cold War” sensitive.

“Indian Red” was introduced in 1958 along with 15 other hues to give us those amazing boxes of 64 crayons, with the built-in sharpener.

How cool!

But “Indian Red”, named after the dye from India, was changed in 1999.

It became “Chestnut” after teachers shared concerns that American youngsters would see “Indian Red” as a reference to “Native American”.

Now, Crayola retired “Blue-Gray”, “Green Blue”, “Lemon Yellow”, “Maize”, “Orange Red”, “Orange Yellow”, “Raw Umber” and “Violet Blue” in 1999.

No real reason but I suspect those 8 hues were still sharp after everything else was either missing or a nub.

On Crayola’s 100th birthday in 2003, we were encouraged to vote out 4 colors.

“Blizzard Blue”, “Magic Mint”, “Teal Blue” and old-timer “Mulberry” were gone.

In 2017, consumers voted to save my personal favorite, “Burnt Sienna”.

I’ve always been an “earth-tones” sort of guy and “Burnt Sienna” fits that category.

Crayola says it’s one of the greatest colors of all time.

It’s listed as “#E97451”.

In the 51 box, “Burnt Sienna” was included and it’s still there today.

As well as “Black and White”.

There’s a building in a city north of Philadelphia where 30 million crayons are stored.

All the crayons in that building, placed end-to-end, would circle the Earth 4 and 1/2 times at the equator.

If you melted all those crayons together, the result would be a giant crayon 35 feet thick and standing 100 feet taller that the Statue of Liberty.

Seems like a great place to end this article.

A bunch of melted crayons in a nation, once proudly called “The Melting Pot”.

There was even a play of that name.

In 1972, “3 Dog Night” sang, “The ink is black, the page is white. Together we learn to read and write. A child is black, a child is white. The whole world looks upon the sight. A beautiful sight”.

I’m no more white than you are black…but does it really matter?

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