Recently a local school district banned a book apparently based on the fear that it violates the state Parents Bill of Rights. The book is entitled Red: A Crayon’s Story. This picture book is about a crayon with a red label who can only color blue; so it struggles with its identity. As the story goes on, another crayon convinces Red that it is okay to color in blue. Others begin to believe and Red flourishes by sharing its “blueness”.
I am sure that this story can be taken in different ways depending upon the view of the reader and their past experiences. However, once again, this controversy has caused me to consider how we teach our children to accept the diversity of their peers and to see the beauty and potential that lies within.
Blue and Pink
This situation reminds me of my days in law school. Over forty years ago when I started my journey, many thought that only blue crayons were capable of completing the legal training to become attorneys. Many thought that the pink crayons were better suited for careers such as administrative assistants and paralegals. So, the seats in the classrooms were still mostly filled with those who could color, write and speak in blue – the color perceived as necessary to be successful.
But in my class, there were pink crayons sitting amongst us. In short order, we were enlightened to find that by coloring, writing and speaking in pink, those crayons could do the required work. In fact, in many situations, the pink-colored speaking and writing was better and more effective than the blue. Despite their different color, the pink crayons stood up to the intellectual and physical demands of the three-year program.
As we all sought to color in the same law school coloring book, the blue crayons adjusted and learned to also color in shades of pink; and the pink crayons added some shades of blue. It was a magnificent collaboration by those who were willing to accept and adapt. The pictures they colored together became brighter, more vivid and more complete. Upon graduation, the pink crayons secured jobs in law firms, in universities, as judges and in other positions alongside their blue peers.
Acceptance and Progress
I like to think that our society is moving past the attitude that a label will pre-determine one’s potential and purpose. Fortunately, as pink crayons have remained true to themselves, they have shown that their color can be as powerful as blue. While there is still much progress to be made, we have moved in the right direction. Today, about one-half of attorneys are pink crayons compared to less than 10% when I was in school. Almost 60% of college students, four of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court and the Vice President of the United States have pink labels.
The freedom to be creative by using all the colors has led us to cures for diseases and travel into space. I wonder how many more times we need to repeat Dr. King’s plea that our children be judged by the content of their character? While Dr. King spoke of race, I trust that in his heart he believed the same applied to all our physical differences. Isn’t it possible that regardless of their label, crayons might prosper using any color? If we let them?
When I was in elementary school, we envied the student who had the box of sixty-four crayons when we only had sixteen. We longed to have access to all the colors we saw in the world around us. Isn’t that wish still alive? Shouldn’t we wish for more colors rather than less? Won’t that make the pictures we draw even more beautiful? Today the crayon companies make over two hundred colors from cool mint to goldenrod to melon to wild strawberry. Mrs. Gump told her son Forrest that the world is a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get. Perhaps we should apply that same wisdom to crayons as well. We shouldn’t forget that many colors have been created by combinations of others. In this case, ironically, even red and blue can be combined to create a lovely shade of purple.
I leave the subject of banning books for another time, and simply focus on accepting our children as they are. I do not have all the answers, but I do believe this. We should use resources like well-written books to help our children appreciate the broad spectrum of colors while at the same time remaining color-blind. We all came to this world with our own unique labels. As we grow, each of us finds our own true colors and then contributes to the world in our own unique ways. If we will allow, we can all add to the beautiful colorful picture of humanity.