Titanium, Oxygen, and Raaaaacism

Maureen Mullarkey has a post over at The Federalist about research into the racism associated with white paint. Norway, which for the moment is covered with vast swaths of white ice and snow, has granted about $1.2 million to the University of Bergen for an investigation into “How Norway Made the World Whiter (NorWhite).” The most common safe white dye is titanium dioxide which was developed in 1910 by a pair of Norwegian chemists.

There’s another grant of around $228,000 going the the Oslo National Academy of the Arts for a sister project “The Materiality of White (MoW).” This study is designed to “highlight TiO2’s materiality and ubiquity, and to contribute to critical thinking on the color white and its mineral origin”—all of that in search of an answer to the question, “Do we need our world to be more white?”

I remember enough high school physics and biology to know that the origin of the color white has nothing to do with minerals per se. Our sensation of the color white occurs when a broad spectrum of light excites all three types of receptors in our eyes. We see other colors when part or parts of the spectrum are missing. A white pigment such as TiO2 reflects a balanced spectrum of the light striking it.

I also remember enough high school chemistry to answer the question about the ubiquity of TiO2 in dyes. It’s vastly safer than the white lead dye it has replaced, especially in paints. Poisonings related to white paint dropped significantly during the first half of the last century as titanium white replaced lead white. BTW, white dye in a component of almost all colors other than black. It is added to moderate the strength of other pigments. The world would be much more boring without white dye.

As to whether melanin-deficient Norwegians need their world to be more white, I suggest they wait until after the spring thaw before making any rash judgments.

1 thought on “Titanium, Oxygen, and Raaaaacism

  1. There currently exist political movements which seek to eliminate individual aspirations which might cause a person to be better at something than other people. These politcal movements seem to believe that human inequities can be eliminated if there are enough limitations applied on individuals who choose to accomplish an effort or activity.

    Therefore, by proclomation of the ruler-decider for all humanity, the following activities must be banned because they might inspire individual excellence:
    Hobbies, practicing law, farming, physical excercise, teaching, golf, news reporting… well, you get the picture.

    Now, about those natural inequities in the animal and plant world…

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