Am I Brown? Or Am I Black?

DSC_00091Original artwork by Marley Boston age 5

As the girls are getting older and discovering more about themselves and the world around them, they are becoming more conscious of ethnic differences; specifically languages and skin color. Any time that we are out and about, and the girls hear someone speaking a language other than English, they automatically assume that – “They’re speaking Spanish!” The person could be speaking Japanese, Swahili, Cantonese, Portuguese, it doesn’t matter – it’s all Spanish to them. Of course we correct them (or attempt to), but we hear them quietly discussing amongst themselves how wrong we are, still thoroughly convinced that it is in fact Spanish that they heard.

Typical for children, they seem to comprehend life concretely, very literally, and they do not yet grasp the more abstract or higher level conceptualizations within our society. So it doesn’t surprise me that the girls, with regard to skin color, refer to themselves as brown. When they hold a brown crayon next to their skin, something they’ve done many times, it’s obvious to everyone that they ARE brown!

So why would I tell them that they are not?

We’ve never told them that they are black, or that society refers to them as black – a conversation that I’m sure will happen soon. But at 3, 5, and 7 – I’m not sure if I am quite ready to discuss such convoluted subject matter or delve into the history of Africans in America.

I love who I am, and what I am (which has little to do with color), because I understand the Universal Truth of our Beings; of our connectedness with our Creator, with each other, and with all things. We are all spiritual and divine expressions of God having a human experience. So to me, in the big scheme of things, skin color is less important.

However, it would be naive of me to deny that in this country, being defined as ‘black’, and even the word black, carries with it many negative connotations and stereotypes. I think we all know it, we all feel it, and probably have been confronted with it directly at some point in our lives. Think about all of the words that are negative that start with the word black: black market, black sheep, black mail, black list, blackballed, black Monday (wall street crash), etc. All of these words undoubtedly have had these negative associations purposely attached to the color black for many subliminal reasons.

Now lets think of some good words that have black associated with it…Hmmm, it’s a stretch. I can think of Blackberry – or in fashion when a hot new color is defined as “the new black.” Can someone please help me out, because I’m having a hard time coming up with anything! And I will not even digress into the history and deep rooted implications and social conditioning that come with being a black person in America – because that’s a whole nutha post! Yes, I said nutha!

However, like any parent, I want my children to grow up feeling validated, worthy, secure in who they are, loved, and protected. Which means, it’s up to me and Marc, as their parents to provide and teach this, so that when they do go out to make their own mark in the world, they will have an unmistakable knowing of who they are, and Whose they are, and become less affected when the world tries to define who they are for them!

So, if they want to refer to themselves as brown, black, purple, green, orange – it’s fine with me. Color is only skin deep. And in this family, we try our best to go deeper than that!

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