http://kirby90210.deviantart.com/art/Skin-Tones-146920684 by Kirby 90210
A few days ago my very inquisitive 4 year old daughter got me to thinking. She has always had a problem distinguishing the color Black from Brown. I thought she was over it until last Wednesday when she colored all the animals in her homework black even though I told her they should be colored brown. I got nervous. I thought she was regressing. At first I said to her, “You’re supposed to color the bears brown honey, not black”. I pointed to the black smudges she made on the homework and asked, “What color is this?” She answered, “Brown”. “No honey, it’s black. You’re supposed to color it brown.” She looked at me quiet and confused. If you know my child, she is never quiet and hardly ever confused. What could be the problem? Then I had an Epiphany!
I touched her bare arm and asked, “What color is your arm?” Quickly she said, “Black”.
“Honey”, I said to my daughter, “Your arm is not the color black, it is brown.” “But my teacher says I am black.” She refuted. I knew it! She’s already getting confused with our society’s efforts to force feed us muddled jargon as they try to place human beings in different class structures according to our appearances. As adults we accept that mass confusion but in reality, children are the best authority on the matter of distinction. If it doesn’t make sense to a child, then it should be done away with.
I really didn’t know what to say in response to her but without thinking, a few words did spill out of my mouth. “Well the next time your teacher or anyone else calls you black, tell them that you are brown.” I was surprised by what I said to her. I too accepted that I was black but really and truly, it doesn’t make sense to be called a color that I am clearly not. And why should human beings be distinguished by colors? Are we so rudimentary that we have to use colors to define us? Are we not much more than that? All Smurfs are blue but is that all that they are? There is Brainy Smurf, Handy Smurf, Papa Smurf and Smurfette to name a few. Mere fictional cartoon characters that are all clearly the color blue or is it periwinkle or cobalt? Anyway, Smurfs are not even simply defined by their color. Why should we be? Are we not more than this simple grid above?
The fact that now I am taking a stand to not be called a color, does that make me less “black”, African, African-American, Caribbean-American? Now I understand why my daughter always refers to her Asian friend, April as white. She is already being trained to classify each person by skin color. I would always say to her, “No honey, April is Chinese.” “But she’s white mommy.” Should I now tell her that her friend April is yellow? Of course not. How cave mannish would that be!
Maybe one day human kind will adjust their eyes to see beyond the exterior and put more emphasis on the deeper more important things such as an individual’s heart condition. But until that day comes, I will be teaching my daughter that Black is Black and Brown is Brown. What do you think?