Monday, May 10, 2010

Brown and Black

Ambrosia 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?


Anonymous said...

Yeah I have the same problem being bi-racial, I neither fit into the black or white or brown categories. Maybe I should make up a "tan that has been slightly bronzed" color so then people will know where I belong - How sad is that and how backwards.

thanks good post!

Anonymous said...

Just read the most recent blog on Verbal Honey. Thanks for posting. I went through a similar thing with P.J. Until learning about Black History Month in Kindergarten, P.J. had no clue that people were defined or labeled in society by their "color." Sure, I want my children to learn history, feel empathy for those who have struggled and celebrate ... See Morepeople overcoming adversity, but I was not fully prepared for P.J.'s question: "Mommy, how come you never told me that we are white and some of my friends are black? And why are they called black when they are really brown?" The conversation on racism, cultures and labeling lasted two days!

by Ambrosia and Epiphany said...

Wow! It just goes to show how logical we are as kids until we allow the foolishness of society infiltrate our minds. Kids see colors in a crayon box, in a rainbow, in flowers, not when playing with their friends. That's how it should be.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the characterization of people by color or skin tones, but have witnessed it my whole life. If I had been born blind and still managed to get to where I am, and to have been lucky enough to meet you both, I'd still "look" at you from the perspective I do; meaning that I see you both as beautiful women, intelligent, funny, talented, caring, hard working - working mothers, benevolent, whimsical and kindred. As it is, the only reason the color of your skin should be remarkable is for what it brings to that beauty.

We humans are indeed hung up on the color thing, and for all the wrong reasons. Whether it's Black Power or White Power, it's really cop out against People Power. If one couches themselves into an isolated viewpoint, they miss the big picture. We are all connected, and anything we do to break or block that connection, works against us all.

Most of the good and important thing in life are (or should be) color blind, such as: Love, Faith, Charity, Forgiveness, Grace, Caring, True Knowledge, the Universal Viewpoint, Honest Self-reflection, Fairness and much, much more.

Obviously, the bad in life is fraught with (and feeds into) the separation of people. Prejudice, hatred, greed, fear, ignorance, intolerance, stereotyping, segregation, degradation, shunning and much, much more. And, the bad happens without thought or interaction, without any effort to get to know the good. It becomes a societal cancer.

The most dangerous thing is for people to purposely remain ignorant, and unfortunately there is a very successful mass media campaign aimed at keeping that status quo intact. All we can do as individuals is to try to make others see by how we act and think what the better way is.

If a little 4 year old can learn to change her thinking, why can't everyone?