Colored: Bowie, Iman and the Ridiculous Idea of Being Colorblind

Note: this has nothing to do with actually not being able to distinguish between colors on the color wheel.

You know when you’re dating and the person you like asks you what color their eyes are to test your observation skills. Or to validate how much you pay attention; have absorbed the details.

They’re brown. Right!? Most people have brown eyes. But what if they’re hazel or green. Brown adjacent? Light brown. What is that? Blue!! No way. But…

Maybe this is a memory from a time when we didn’t have images of people everywhere. When we had to use more imagination to recall how their smile creeps up their left cheek.

David Bowie had heterochromia iridum. This causes one eye to be a different color than the other. Hence, “hetero”. So many of us are really homo and can’t deal, but anyway. Unless you’re a super fan you might have forgotten this detail. He was, after all, alien to people in so many ways. His forays in acting, even later in life, didn’t remind people of this either, most likely requiring him to wear colored contacts to play the character. Although being so unique, he wasn’t asked to change his eyes for character’s in the film’s Labyrinth and The Prestige…but these were essentially wizard archetypes.

Then he marries Iman, the African goddess of modeling that fought her way through the fashion and beauty industry. Here we have an interracial relationship. Can you tell the difference in color? If you can see and close your eyes, can you recall what they look like? Yes.

Colorblind ideology creates a fetish out of the product of a racially anchored society. The offspring. We always wish our children to be beautiful. And because this beauty is defined generally by Eurocentric features, we can’t even believe there are Black people who naturally have blue eyes. Or fair skinned people with dark parents. Our genetics enjoy reading us for filth when they reveal our recessive genes. There are a plethora of makeup tutorials on how to achieve every racial and ethnic look we can discover. There are not nearly enough components in our society to establish equity and inclusion for all these looks.

I just thought it was a crazy idea. We play Heroes and Rebel Rebel in movies and at rally’s to inspire ourselves; when we are really Under Pressure. This is ground control to that space junkie Major Tom…Young Americans has evolved into I’m Afraid of Americans.

I’m calling into question the excuses we make. For the things we like, enjoy and find beautiful; for the things we accept with total cognitive dissonance. Like Bowie can have two different colored eyes, but marrying Iman was still a radical act.

Binaries are out the window. Creating opposites where there are none.


what color are my eyes?

(The young woman featured throughout this piece is David and Oman’s daughter, Alexandria Zahra. Both have children from previous relationships.)

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