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What Colour are You?

By Andrew Purchase

A few days ago, while I was working at my desk, my five-year old daughter, Ella, appeared at my elbow. She had been doing some thinking. She was holding a periscope in her hand. (In her other hand she had her grubby stuffed rabbit).

A toothy grin. A charming smile. Something was on her mind that needed immediate resolution. Deep questions from five-year olds don't wait for convenient moments. It is a child's duty to bring the deep issues of life to the immediate attention of the superintending adult. 

Ella had evidently been giving a great deal of thought to something in the adult world above. It was now an urgent issue.

"Daddy," Ella did not wait for the next appropriate gap in my concentration.

"Daddy!" she persisted. Trust me on this one, Daddy, it's extremely important.

"Daddy, I have a question for you." Her third attempt at getting my attention.

"Yes, Ella," I automatically mouthed as the document I was reading continued to detain my full attention.

Same colour

"Daddy," the emboldened little voice chirped. "Is everybody's skeleton the same colour, even for people from different countries who have different skins?"

Through the intense concentration on my thoroughly boring document, I could hear the unmistakable ring of profundity emanating from a child at elbow height. 

It was that feeling you get when you are sleeping, enjoying some dream, and your wife prods you in the ribs, prompting you to turn off the ringing alarm clock next to your head. It's like someone in another world is trying to rouse you to reality.

"Say that again, Ella." I looked at her for the first time.

"Is everybody's skeleton the same colour, even for people from different countries who have different skins?"

"I think you just solved global racism," was all I was able to say.

I could only stop and smile. That's it! The utter irony of racism by colour: we all have the same colour deep down. You just have to find it.

Hanging out with children is never a dull affair. Some days they will run you off your feet. Other days they will ask a litany of questions – all of which begin with the dreaded word “Why”. 

But every so often, a child will surprise you with a raw diamond, a hidden gem moment that keeps you coming back for more. 

Children are simple. Their world is beautiful because it is simple. A child's world is unsullied by the self-interest (and counter self-interest) of the adult world. Their world plays by the rules of simple justice, simple fairness and simple pleasure.

Every now and again, from their world, a child will raise a periscope into the world of adults to look at what's above. When they do, I try to be on hand to hear their impressions. It's like getting a reality check from the realm of innocence.

Yes, let's talk about colour. But let's not talk about colour that is skin deep. Let's go a little deeper, go past the immediate and the superficial. Find out what is really beneath.

We are all the same colour, actually. The insight of a five-year old. 

Wanting to be respected; the need to be treated as an equal; the fear of being shunned; the desire for dignity; the wish to be accorded worth and value; the need to be loved by family and friends.

All these hopes and fears of the soul bear a particular colour. It’s a colour that is universal to us all.

Deep down, we all have the same colour spine. 

And so now, every time I am tempted to cast some judgment on a fellow train passenger or bus rider or resident or queue occupier – based primarily on that person's externalities – I remember Ella's theorem. 

Ella's theorem states that all people have the same colour skeleton. And that's enough for me to remember. A simple theorem to a complex problem, but it works. 

Could it really be that we are all the same colour? That depends on where you look.

Andrew Purchase has been a lawyer, academic, PR consultant and pastor. His aspiration for low-level sporting glory was thwarted by a bad shoulder, so he now serves up English lessons and witty one-liners in his blog.

Picture by Tsen-Waye Tay


Submitted by Jill (not verified) on
What a smart little girl! Enjoy her as much as you can while she is so young and not influenced by the outside world. She must have loving parents.

Submitted by Summer (not verified) on
This whole story is made up and BS. No way does a 5yo little girls say "it's extremely important;" she might say "very important" and more likely, she'll just say "its important." And no father says things like "I think you just solved global racism" to a little girl as she'll have no idea what you're talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
The extremely important part isn't in quotation marks, he means it's as if that's what she was saying.

Submitted by Dan (not verified) on
Please read carefully before you make silly comments. That was the author's interpretation of what she was trying to say, not what she actually said. Note there are no quotation marks around that sentence.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
She did not say "it's extremely important", that sentence was not in speech marks therefore not a remark made by the supposed 5 year old. It is in fact "daddy", who is simply saying that when she calls him "daddy" she's got something "extremely important" to say or ask.

Submitted by Mel (not verified) on
I think that basing your opinion on the words a little girl can or cannot use if really sort of silly. A child who grows up in a home where the parents are intelligent will use words such as these while speaking with their children from birth. In other words our kids speak the same as we do by learning from us so explaining the meaning to things early on will dictate the words that will be used throughout the child's' life. I have heard children speak better than most of the adult population at the age of 5 so this does not sound strange or should it be tagged as BS. Saying the little girl would have no idea what global racism may or may not have been something the little girl would understand but I bet you anything the little girl would ask what that comment meant. Just because you may not have had a vocabulary of intellectual words used by much older people does not mean everyone else has not. I am ten years old and in my junior year of high school. I learned words like these at when I was very young, my father being a college professor and my mother a writer.

Submitted by julie (not verified) on
Some 5 year olds will say "extremely" - it all depends on the level of vocabulary they hear being spoken daily. All children are bright, they learn from and imitate their parents.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
The girl doesn't say it. He's filling in for her, check the punctuation.

Submitted by Lizzie (not verified) on
She didn't say it's extremely important, that part isn't in speech marks... it's just what her father interpreted 'Daddy!' as meaning... And some father's do say things like that... they then say something else that their child will understand... My Dad used to say things like that...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
She didn't actually say that. Unless it's in speech marks it's not said. Simple stuff

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