Source: Painting by JD Baez | Inspiration for The Blueness of an African Butterfly

The Blueness of an African Butterfly
by Anita D Russell
Author of I Wanna See Laney’s House: A Sibling Story


Color blindness is a handicap,
a poorly constructed ideological excuse
to remain white while blotting out color:
attempting to blot out color on the basis of a lie;
a lie based on the assumption that the
Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement
were enough;
a lie based on the assumption that the election
of a black man as president
means I now live in a post-racial, colorblind society.

The weakness in color blindness is this:
In a feeble attempt to blot out color
lies a feeble attempt to put a mind at ease,
pretending not to see what is blatantly obvious:
a nation up to its neck in the hidden figures of inequality.

When you sit on an eastern beach and watch the sun rise,
do you not see the magnificent way the color lights up the sky,
bouncing off the ocean like rays of pure gold?
Isn’t that magnificent color part of the beauty of the sunrise?

When you walk through a field of wildflowers,
do you not see the way each individual flower stands up straight, 
blossoming with a burst of every color imaginable 
— and some unimaginable?
Isn’t that magnificent color part of the beauty of a field of wildflowers?

Do you not see the bright blue body of a male peacock, 
attempting to woo the affections of a female peacock;
mesmerizing her with the vibrant colors of his feathers?
Isn’t that magnificent color part of the beauty of being a peacock?

Do you not see shoes of every color in the closet of a woman, 
choosing each for a reason and a season,
choosing each to match the colorful array of clothing 
found in that same closet?
Isn’t that magnificent color part of the beauty of being a woman?

So, why is blackness not seen as a magnificent color
that is part of the beauty of a nation?
Why is it easy to say, “I am color blind” when speaking of human beings,
but not when speaking of sunrises, wildflowers, peacocks or shoes?

Attempts to blot out my identity in the name of color blindness;
attempts to delegate me to an inferior position
reveal deeply entrenched internal weakness;
reflecting an internal, psychological fear,
not of me being stronger, more resilient or more beautiful,
but of you being less, of you not being superior 
as you’ve been conditioned to believe.

The depth of your belief in a racial soul
passes generationally through your cultural DNA,
impacting a nation.

What you don’t understand is this:
My strength emerges from struggle.
My struggle produces resilience.
My resilience produces beauty.
My beauty produces a soul that is endless.
My soul runs as deep as the Red Sea.
My soul soars with the blueness of an African butterfly.

The depth of my belief in an endless soul
passes generationally through my cultural DNA,
impacting a nation.

In my soul I reflect a Renaissance woman.
In my soul I am filled with the colorful tones
of smooth jazz on a moonlit night.

I am filled with colorful words that flow
from the mouths of poets, rappers and griots.

I am filled with the color of paint dripped on canvas,
creating the ability to catch the eye and spark emotion.

I am filled with the color of emotions and words
spoken from a playwright’s heart as a gem of the ocean.

I am filled with words that stream from songs
where the melody flows across the tongue,
smooth as honey or tart as lemonade.

I am filled with the color of the movement of a dancer
where the rhythm pulls me in as three become one,
me, the dancer and the dance.

I am filled with the overflow from the Harlem Renaissance,
as I rise with the strength, resilience and beauty of an
endless soul.

In my soul I reflect the African colors of my ancestors.
In my soul I am filled with the brightness of red:
from blood filling the bowels of a slave ship;
from blood running through the streets and nourishing the soil.

In my soul I am filled with the darkness of a nation’s history
from black bodies hanging like strange fruit;
from black bodies lying in the streets or sitting in jail cells;
from black bodies brutalized, victimized and politicized.

Yet I rise with the strength, resilience and beauty of an
endless soul.

In my soul I reflect the color of rage.
In my soul I am filled with the anger of blackness
seen as threat instead of beauty:
from slavery to Jim Crow;
from separate and unequal to integrated
— yet still unequal;
from reconstruction to the great migration;
from the Rosewood Massacre
to the Massacre on Black Wall Street;
from Emmitt Till to Trayvon Martin;
from the Scottsboro Boys to the Central Park Five;
from the Little Rock Nine to the Four Little Girls;
from the assassination of Malcom, Martin and Medgar;
to the murders at a Charleston Church.

Yet I rise with the strength, resilience and beauty of an
endless soul.

The blueness of an African butterfly soars to represent me,
as my strength, resilience and beauty arise out of my struggle.
Color blind indeed; that’s you not me.

BONUS:
The Place to SOAR TV Interview with Painter JD Baez

June 2017