Colors of People

Being colorblind yet wanting to include people of color in my stories has presented me with a problem. Many of the descriptions of people of color are either insulting or are meaningless to me. I can’t imagine them and I can’t keep them straight. Why would I want to use these descriptions in one of my stores and actually make people of color feel insulted.

Coffee colored skin? Black? Cocoa? How about for people with medium skin tones? Brown? Even to me, these seem limiting and useless. And that is even before I consider white people. White? Pasty? Pale? Egg shell? Oatmeal baby food?

I want to give up, but I can’t. If there isn’t at least a little bit of description about someone’s color, then it is assumed that they are Caucasoid. Since “white” people are considered the norm in entirely too much literature, some description is going to be necessary unless everyone is assumed to be Anglo-Saxon.

Turning to the Internet has been no help at all. Even when I can find someone willing to help, it is likely that they are discussing how their skin color being compared to trade products is degrading (coffee, cocoa) and telling people to look closer at the actual color of skin so that they can see the primary color and the undertones. By doing that, the description of the skin color will be more true to life.

Well crap! If I can’t actually see the skin color, seeing the color of the undertones is only going to make it worse.

The solution I am going to use isn’t perfect, but it is the best that I can do… at least for now.

Presently, researchers are dividing skin color into seven six groups based on the level of melanin in the skin. While they don’t associate a color directly with them, it is a place for me to start.

The Fitzpatrick scale as listed under human skin color on Wikipedia is:

Type

Also called

Sunburning

Tanning behavior

Von Luschan’s chromatic scale

I Light, pale white Often Occasionally 1–5
II White, fair Usually Sometimes 6–10
III Medium, white to light brown Rarely Usually 11–15
IV Olive, moderate brown Rarely Often 16–21
V Brown, dark brown Very rarely Sometimes darkens 22–28
VI Very dark brown to black Extremely rarely Naturally black-brown skin 29–36

Note: even these skin types don’t go uncontested. The same scale is listed using different descriptions and numerical translation compared to Von Luschan’s chromatic scale.

I an attempt to give consistency to my writing, I’m going to add my own colors to this scale.

Type

Also called

Sunburning

Tanning behavior

Color

I Light, pale white Often Occasionally Frosted ivory
II White, fair Usually Sometimes Moonlit tusk
III Medium, white to light brown Rarely Usually Dusty ecru
IV Olive, moderate brown Rarely Often Umber bronze
V Brown, dark brown Very rarely Sometimes darkens Golden onyx
VI Very dark brown to black Extremely rarely Naturally black-brown skin Polished jet

The color names that I have assigned to the skin type still doesn’t have any meaning to me, but they do appeal to me from an auditory perspective. While I can’t actually see or imagine the colors, they all sound beautiful to my ear.

Do you have any names that would sound better? I would love to hear them.

October 8, 2015 addition:

While I love the concept, there were still a few ‘colors’ that were bothering me. Either they were overly descriptive or utterly confusing to people that could see colors. The idea of my skin color table is to hint at the color while letting your imagination fill in the details. I don’t want it to be precise. I don’t want the colors to be something that you can Google and come up with the “right” answer for their skin color.

Additionally, each color should be beautiful in its own right. Humans are beautiful, and the colors that make up human diversity are beautiful as well. This list should represent that beauty without bringing in the baggage that comes along with the traditional names of skin tones.

With those things in mind, here is my new list:

Type

Also called

Sunburning

Tanning behavior

Color

I Light, pale white Often Occasionally Frosted ivory
II White, fair Usually Sometimes Moonlit tusk
III Medium, white to light brown Rarely Usually Planed leather
IV Olive, moderate brown Rarely Often Umber bronze
V Brown, dark brown Very rarely Sometimes darkens Velvet onyx
VI Very dark brown to black Extremely rarely Naturally black-brown skin Polished jet
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Marisa

I am a writer of words, a thinker of thoughts, a changer of genders, and a queerer of life. I am an antagonist of the ordinary; and while I do tolerate it, I also look at it with contempt.

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