You’ve got to feel a little bit bad for Gray.
First off, it probably has some serious identity issues. As someone who has considered getting the words ‘It’s Sophie, not Sophia’ tattooed onto her forehead, I can relate all too well with Gray’s a-versus-e conundrum, although at least I actually know which version is correct. Not to mention that its reputation has been forever sullied by E.L. James and her fifty shades.
But the toughest problem Gray has to deal with has got to be its unpopularity. Harsh reality check: People just don’t like Gray very much these days. They don’t even like to admit that it’s there. Whenever Gray tries to explore its darker side, maybe write some angsty poems, blast Fall Out Boy from behind a closed door, people label it black. And when it swings in the other direction, tries to keep the mood light, keep the champagne flowing, people say it’s gone white.
So what do you do if you’re Gray? Do you listen? Do you duck your head and nod? Yes, yes, I don’t exist. I don’t make sense to you, and therefore, I cannot be. Forgive me. That must have been uncomfortable for a second.
Or do you call up your friend Sophie and say, “Look, Sophie, these people are telling me that I, well, that I just don’t compute. Can you please make a case for my existence?”
And because she loves you, your friend Sophie says yes. With only minimal grumbling.
Except there’s one thing she hasn’t told you: She actually has a hard time seeing you, too.
It’s not her fault. If you’re not around, Gray, the world becomes much, much simpler. It becomes easier to argue, for one, because people are either right or they’re wrong, and there’s no fuzzy in-between state. It becomes easier to squish groups into boxes, too, because they either live in those boxes, or they don’t live at all.
You’re not a mystery, though, Gray. You’re just a head-scratching hodgepodge of all our blacks and whites. But you’re probably the truest color we’ve got.
People are complex. There are conservatives who support gay marriage; there are liberals who are pro-life. There are quarterbacks in BC Calculus, and there are dropouts founding Spotify. We make life-changing decisions, and we make decisions that we only think are life-changing. We love, we hate, and we feel a whole host of things in between.
You exist, Gray, because the world is trickier than we’d like it to be. When we debate – or when Mr. President and our GOP do – it’s easy to think you’re fading to black. Or white. In our arguments about economic policies, about boots on the ground, about which is the best Kanye West album, it’s so, so tempting to roll our eyes and reject every point that doesn’t echo our own. But we can’t close ourselves off like that. As much as we don’t want to admit it, there are strong, persuasive arguments for both sides. We may set up camp in one end of the court, but that doesn’t invalidate the other team’s beliefs. And the answer, truth be told, is probably more likely to be found somewhere in between. (Except in the Kanye West example. It’s definitely Graduation.)
We may not like you very much, Gray, but we can still try to bat away our instinct to reach for the easy colors. If we guard ourselves against dismissing you, we can start using your shades to get somewhere unabashedly vibrant, rather than stay paralyzed with a dull, unused paint brush in midair.
The only way you’re going to outright disappear, Gray, is if we let ourselves believe that you’re not there.
– Sophie Gaddes, The Agnes Irwin School, Class of 2016