The Color in Black and White


Illustration by Natalia Dabrowska

The colors of our world exist in the context of a spectrum of light waves. Light waves, then, are confined to a second spectrum, called the electromagnetic spectrum. In terms of physics, black and white are not true colors.

Black is a result of the absence of visible light, whereas white is a reflection of all light waves in the spectrum. This is why holding a prism to a light produces a rainbow; it’s designed to separate differing wavelengths, producing what we know as separate colors from white light.

They’re polar opposites. They’re bleak and uninteresting. They’re incompatible in every way. So why is it that we Friars find so much color in black and white?

Aside from that scientific jargon, in a more contemporary light, black and white are overlooked. Rarely are they the focal point. There’s something intensely beautiful in a black and white piece of art with just a dot of color. In the modern age, where we burn ourselves with colorful films, photographs, and VSCO-esque filters, black and white have become mediocre.

They’re the base to compare other things to, they’re the colors you should only wear at weddings and funerals, they’re the color of newspapers before becoming read all over.

And our class? The class of 2019? We’re nothing special. We aren’t the smartest class to ever walk through the arch, nor are we the most rebellious. We’re not the most iconic class. We find comfort in being the gray area of values.

And yet, while we find ourselves gray on most scales, in our mediocrity comes our beautiful superlative: We’re the most black and white class there’s ever been.

The blank canvas presented to us on the first day of freshman year boasted unfamiliarity. As we all timidly approached our paintbrushes, our class persona began to take color. With each streak of black and white, we became more sure of ourselves, more willing to make distinct marks.

While freshman year was for putting down the primer, sophomore year was for letting our brushes run wild. The stripes of sophomore year are fierce and uncultivated from the reckless period between getting the hang of high school and learning how to succeed in it. Towards the end of sophomore year, most of us gave up the brush altogether, instead grabbing the bucket of paint to create abstract splatter paintings.

Junior year was the era of refinement. As we took on the burden of standardized tests, difficult classes, and strict teachers, our class canvas earned streaks of dignity– sharp black and white lines– indicating that we were ready for our final year at Fenwick.

And so, here we are today, mere days from graduation. As we reflect on the finished painting before us, there is a certain quality to each striation, smudge, and speck. The identity of each person in our class is found somewhere on the canvas.

And because of our identity as a class, everything we do collectively stands out even greater. Our growth as a class is extremely remarkable when viewed as a teal focal point. Our violet unexpected unity stands out; our dandelion yellow vulnerabilities pop; all our reds and greens and blues catch the eye, contrasted against the ordinary.

Stand back and you’ll see a black and white masterpiece. Look more closely and you’ll see colors from all sides of the spectrum. Look even further and you’ll see yourself, your best friends, your classmates– all painted in the waving light of passing memories.

You’re not going to remember every moment at Fenwick. You’ll forget the books you read (or the plot summaries you read 20 minutes before class). You’ll forget how agonizing the last five minutes of restoration schedule are. You’ll forget your locker combo, your locker placement, even classrooms you’ve been in for upwards of three entire days.

But certain moments will be your colors next to the black and white, and not all of them are huge moments, like performing in Banua or winning an award, some of them are distinctly mediocre moments that just stick with you for some reason, like that run-in you had with someone making a homecoming poster, or that inside joke that always makes you laugh.

These moments, unfiltered snapshots of our past, are perfectly black and white. So, hold on to them. Tuck them into your pocket for safe keeping. Take them out when you need to smile.

We know little of what is to become of the future. The world we are about to be thrown into is monochromatic; the uneasiness of the first day of college, the instability of our plans, the unpredictable nature of anything and everything– it all seems to cast a dark shadow over what we know.
We’re all fortunate enough to begin college with another blank canvas, and it’s up to each of us to decide whether we want a whiteboard or a blackboard.

No matter where decisions take us, we can find comfort in the transformation we’ve gone through over the past four years, from spotless freshmen to unbridled sophomores to distinguished juniors to prismatic seniors.

We now know how life should go. We now know a thing or two about finding color in black and white.