man o man is emacs a puzzle to configure!!! (for me and the average newbie at least)
have a look at your ~/.emacs file. there will be a bunch of cryptic lisp configuration stuff.
Try to find anything that deals w/ colors and comment that out, then startup emacs again and see if that does anything.
There's all kinds of documentation within emacs... just type info when you're there, and look around for what you want.
I'm not at home now, so I can't really elaborate, but when I get a chance I'll have a look around too.