Paint The Whole Damn Town Brown

Young boy asks his aunt, “Aunt, why do THEY call us black?” She asks in response “what do you mean nephew?” He says in confusion “THEY call African-Americans black. And I’m not black.” “Well what are you honey?”  “When you look at my skin, I’m brown. This color in the crayon box is brown.” The aunt smiles with pride and affirmation, “yes honey you are. You can call yourself whatever you want to.”

AND YOU KNOW WHAT?!! My little cousin is right! I’m following his lead. Why call myself what THEY want to call me? And then you know what…I’m taking it a whole step further! Rebelling! I’m painting THE WHOLE DAMN TOWN BROWN.

There is chocolate brown, reddish brown, yellowish brown, paper bag brown, sand brown, mud brown, peanut butter brown, so dark it’s blue brown, caramel brown, tar brown, khaki brown, ebony brown. So much brown and I don’t see enough of it! And frankly put, I’m sick of it.

I’ve decided my children will only see brown. When they think pure they will see brown.
I want my child to see everything brown and it will be the norm. No white bread, my bread will be wheat, whole grain, honey wheat, whatever as long as it’s not white.  I’ll pay a little extra for brown eggs (what the hell is the damn difference anyway?), wheat flour and raw sugar. Why are all the “basic needs” white?  When I say basic needs I mean the first thing you think to buy from the market when getting together for an impending storm.  I’m talking regular toothpaste, eggs, milk and bread. It’s all white.  Save for the milk. If I didn’t think chocolate milk was a serving of diabetes I would have that in my refrigerator and serve it daily.  Toilet paper isn’t excluded! I can’t even wipe my ass in color!!!  If I could figure out how to make it snow brown snow, my child would be singing “Dreaming of a Brown Christmas”  The other idea that I’m laughing and wrestling with in my head is about décor. Furniture! I’m not even sure I want light colored wood furniture in my house. Forget mahogany, it isn’t dark enough. I only want Black Walnut, Brazilian rosewood and Cocobolo. Brown everywhere!!

I have taken this idea to my mother. She looks at me after yet another “Black Pride” rant. Her eyes are asking if her child is losing her sanity but her mouth just asks me why.  She says “but the world isn’t like that.” But I challenge her saying “but neither is the world all white.” Some people move from a small town and say that there are no black people there.  NONE. NO ONE? NOT ONE BLACK PERSON. Not even a mixed race child? So they just see white all day with the exception of a few tv shows or maybe a mp3 picture of an artist on their playlist. If this is reality for some white people why can’t I create this atmosphere and it be my reality?

I really want my babies to see their skin and feel empowered.  I want it to be the constant image in their head. Black/Brown is beautiful and I will practice what I preach. I want no white dolls in my child’s bed. I won’t be hesitant to tell any friend or family member that I will not be accepting any other race of doll either. And if they don’t like it, they’re welcome to leave my presence.  Nothing against anyone else but I refuse to have my little girl looking at a white Barbie and thinking it is the better or smarter doll (yes we all know about that study done). I did have one white Barbie as a child but my mother only allowed it because it was gifted by a white family member. I actually agree with that modification. There’s always an exception to the rule.

As far as baby books go if it isn’t filled with brown kids, or doesn’t have an international theme, or isn’t a book with animal characters, then it is a closed book to my child. It won’t even exist.  Caillou who?  My favorite books as a child had black characters. “Jamaica’s Find,” all Ezra Jack Keats books, “Abiyoyo.” “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,” “I Love My Hair.” These are all WONDERFUL books for black children. And while these type of books are less than 3% of the market they are still great finds. I never even realized how rare those books were and how much of a blessing it was until after high school. I never realized that many brown children had never read or heard of these books before.

Does it sound like overkill? Sounds like I’m putting too much thought into this? Well I don’t think so. I am flooded with the white standard image everyday. 90% of the time I see white people on billboards and commercials. Why not flood my child with the image of brown people at least 80% of the time? I never thought ads affected me. I was always aware of what the big companies would try to sell me. However it took travelling into another country to notice how ads affected my psyche. Being in Jamaica and seeing all black commercials, ads and billboards really changed me. It made me feel HOME and WELCOMED and frankly WANTED.  To come back “home” and not see one black person on a billboard driving to my house is far from a slap in the face but it is a spit in the eye. It was very “welcoming.” It actually felt unusual.

My father also did his best to instill black pride in me as a child.  We were always having our father-daughter outings at museums and festivals with a concentration in black culture and history.  In fact he was the main driving force behind me having black children’s books. He is very pro black even his vanity license tags show it.  With this being so I’m always surprised when he says I should leave my hometown to experience a “different variety” of people. He especially felt the need to emphasize his point when I told him that visiting San Francisco was a culture shock because the majority of people there were Asian. I was born and raised and currently live in a city that is majority black… I attended a majority black Catholic school, high school and went to a HBCU… of course it was a culture shock. But why should I leave because of that? I doubt many white people venture out of the comfort of their homes to experience the “diversity” of a majority black city JUST BECAUSE. It doesn’t happen in their world. Why should it happen in mine?

I’m not saying i don’t want to be around white people and I’m not a separatist.  Nor am I saying that I don’t like white people. It’s just that considering the history of brown people in this country, considering the condition of brown people in this country and especially considering the youth hate dark skin and automatically avoid it…I want to raise my children differently. My child will not be raised to hate their skin, whether deep dark brown or lighter brown  nor the skin of others who aren’t black. But they will be raised knowing that having melanin soaked flesh makes them powerful.


4 thoughts on “Paint The Whole Damn Town Brown

  1. great piece! i recently had a woman ask what to tell her daughter who had pointed out a woman of african descent and asked “what color is she?” i said tell her the truth, she’s brown! increase her vocabulary by thinking of creative adjectives to describe what type of brown. what to call those of us descended from people with the common experience of historical enslavement is another matter entirely. i still don’t have an answer for that.


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