An Obsession with Color

Color Blindness
Credit: Denise McGill

An Obsession with Color

I think perhaps my obsession with color started when I found my little brother was colorblind.  It started when he was about 4 or 5 years old.  I was 8 years his senior so he would come to me with his problems and questions.  One day he came up to me with one red sock and one green sock and asked if they matched.  I wondered if he was playing a trick on me or if this was a joke, but he was sincere.  So I said he was silly and of course they didn’t match.  Later he came back to me with two green socks and asked if they matched.  That’s when I squinted.  Something is wrong.  Can’t he SEE that they match?  I told Mom about it and later that month she took us both to have our eyes examined.  Me because I’m near-sighted and him… well because he is color blind.  The optometrist let me stay in the room while he tested him and I saw the tests with the colored dots.  I could see the obvious 5 in red circles surrounded by the green circles.  But my brother could not see it.  I asked why not.  And the optometrist says that the cones that should pick up the colors of red and green are not working and what he sees is the same shade of grey.

What to do?

Testing for Color
Credit: Graphic Stock

What can be done?

My mother stopped buying colored socks so the sock problem was solved.  However I was never the same.  I couldn’t get over that he can’t see what I so thoroughly enjoy everyday.  He never complained or mourned over it.  How can you mourn for what you never experienced.  But I have.  Imagine biting into a large juicy grey apple.  Or a bowl of big grey strawberries.   Imagine placing shiny round grey ornaments on a grey Christmas tree.  I mean, what’s the point?  I asked him once how he knew when to go at a stoplight, and he said the stop is on top and the go is on the bottom.  Right.  I never really paid attention to that because I stop on the red and go on the green.  When he met a sweet lady and decided to marry, she wanted the invitations to be, of course, red.  He just smiled and said “whatever she wants.”  But he couldn’t enjoy it.  It was all grey for him.  Imagine watching only black and white TV for the rest of your life.  

Clancy Green

My family has a friend who is colorblind.  He was my first introduction to the concept that some people can’t see what I see.  We were camping with him and his family.  He had bought a brand new tent for his family.  I overheard him make several angry remarks as he unpacked his shiny new tent, and then he called me over.  “Neesie, you’re going to have to help me put this together.”  I couldn’t imagine how I could be of help putting together a tent.  I was only 10.  He held up two poles and said are these the same color?  Sure enough the poles were all color coded for “easy” assembly.  He couldn’t tell one color from another.  He sees one shade of green and all the rest are shades of grey.   That explains whey he always bought a forest green car or truck.  Why he only had green carpet in his home, and green comforters on the beds.  Green was the only color he could see in a world of grey.  We got to where we called that shade of green “Clancy green.”  When color TV's were the thing to buy, he couldn't see the point.  The black and white TV looked the same as a color TV broadcast to him.


What's Christmas without Red and Green?

No red or green
Credit: Free Images

Ishihara's Test for Color Deficiency

Ishihara Test Chart Books, for Color Deficiency
Amazon Price: $507.40 $120.94 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2014)

Color coded things?

I was so happy one year when we bought a large 8-foot artificial Christmas tree.  No more needles, no more fuss with pinesap and making sure it had water, and the fire hazard.  As I unpacked my tree and began putting it together, I pulled out the instructions and noticed all the branches were color coded, just like Clancy’s new tent.  I immediately thought of my brother.  Sure he could put in the branches that were coded with a white strip and the black strip.  But when it came to the red and the green coded strip, he would have problems.  He would never be able to do it unless he had a child tell him which was red and which was green, for the rest of his life.

People with colorblindness are very quiet.  They don’t complain for make a big noise about it.  They simply, quietly cope.  You probably have one sitting next to you at work and are unaware.  Most of us don’t give it a thought.

My obsession with color goes way back.  I love color.  I grieve for those who can’t see what I see and feel what I feel when I see it.  It is a shame.


Ishihara's Test for Color Deficiency

Ishihara’s Test for Color Deficiency


Red Green color blindness is predominantly found in men.  However it is in the X chromosome, so women are carriers of the trait.   Statistically 1 in 10 Caucasian male have the defect.  Trauma to the eye and even some diseases can cause color blindness but usually it is an inherited trait.  The photo is one of the color blindness tests known as Ishihara’s Test for Color Deficiency.

Most of us can clearly see the 74 in green against reddish dots.  With some deficiencies, so may only see a 21.   With the most typical color blindness of red and green, you see nothing but dots.

In the end, I think we need to be more sensitive to those who quietly go around without the use of red and green.  We need to stop making things color coded.

Color blindness test

Erik the Red Sees Green: A Story About Color Blindness
Amazon Price: $16.99 $9.04 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 29, 2014)
Since it is an alarming thing as a child to find out you are "missing" something, here is a sensitive way to break it to children.