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Pencil Shavings | Tessa Blair

Photo credit: Bobby Jones

Upon finding out I’m colorblind, people usually respond with gasps and remarks of amazement, as if it is some big revelation to find out that I perceive the world differently than them. But really, didn’t we already know that?

No one perceives anything the same as anyone else. We are shaped by our experiences, our environment, our genetics. I mean yes, you can say that my color vision is diagnosably different than most people’s, but that isn’t really saying much.

Two people with “perfect” color vision will not share a favorite color; they will see beauty in different forms and different colors. Genetically speaking, these two people should see a color identically as the other does, but it’s obvious that they don’t. That’s because color is not an objective, measurable characteristic. Color is an experience. It is a moving, living feeling that can’t be replicated person to person.

You could argue that color is quantifiable by measuring its wavelength, and that there is a right way to define it. However, this is irrelevant when talking about perception and the human experience. No one can see color wrong.

My color blindness is pretty mild, according to medical standards. But I don’t think of it as a blindness at all. Blindness implies that I’m unable to see; but it isn’t that I can’t see, it’s that I see differently, along with everyone else.

The answer to the “So what it is like to be colorblind?” question is that it feels completely normal. I don’t notice that I’m colorblind because I’ve never seen the world through anyone’s eyes but my own. I can’t explain what I see different because I don’t have anything to compare it to. I wouldn’t even know I was colorblind if a doctor hadn’t tested me for it.

There is nothing inherently wrong with me due to my color blindness; it is only when society and doctors establish a norm that it becomes “bad.” While this may not be a big deal when it comes to color perception, it points to a larger societal issue.

Instead of embracing differences, we tend to define normality and create strict categories and enforce standards around it. Something that would otherwise feel normal to a person is now defined as “wrong.” We shouldn’t be defining people as “not normal,” but rather realizing that there is no norm because each one of us is different, and that is something to be celebrated.

Tessa Blair
Tessa Blair

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