Yell(ow)ing out to the Crowds
When children first pull out crayons to draw pictures (that are recognizable), the one of the stereotypial first drawings consists of a house with two windows and a door, a chimney, grass and a bright yellow sun. From the earliest moments that children assign attributes to objects, practically the most common association is yellow with the sun. With sunlight.
This transition from the rays of a yellow sun to the idea of light has permeated across languages and cultures. Mystics believe that yellow emanates from the aura of an intellectual person. Naturally, it was the color that symbolized the Enlightenment movement as well.
Each of these ideas were etched early into our personal minds. However, dating back to the earliest recordings of historical events, some of today’s associations have been etched in the Bible and other documents.
More negative connotations date back to these scriptures, and were then portrayed in Medieval art. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, is portrayed as wearing yellow robes in paintings as a sign of cowardice. In American slang, cowards are teased as being “yellowbellied” or “yellow.”
The second usage for the color yellow throughout the centuries has been to liken the color to sickness. Starting with nature, the yellowing of leaves is the first sign of a lack of nutrients, usually predicting the imminent dying of that branch or plant.
In the late 19th century, the United States and various Western countries called the era the Yellow Peril as a huge influx of Chinese and Japanese emigrated from their homelands, supposedly threatening white wages and standards of living. People considered the Asian people’s skin color a tint of yellow, subtly inferring their infesting of the states.
Similarly, the Nazis made the Jews wear yellow wristbands during World War II to set them apart from other citizens (Color 200). Like red, yellow is a dynamic color that has gained recognition in many different forms in culture and history.