I love the time spent one on one that I rarely get to have with my preschool aged daughter. The conversations, the giggles, the quest for her independence, and even simply coloring together can make my day. Well, one day she asked if I would paint with her, and it was then that I learned that my smart, beautiful and happy little girl decided that she doesn’t like her brown skin. Wait, what?
Me: “Oh I love that you painted your horse blue. What color are you going to paint the rider?”
Her: “I don’t know, maybe purple?”
Me: “Purple? I’ve never seen a purple person! I’m painting mine brown.”
Her: “I don’t want to paint mine brown, I don’t like brown skin.”
Me: “You don’t?” (Trying not to make it huge deal) “Well, does that mean that you don’t like my skin? Or your skin?”
Her: “No, I like your skin.”
Me: “Ok, well, brown skin is beautiful skin, just like all of the other skin colors out there. Look at us, look at brother, and daddy, and grandma, and aunties, and uncles, and cousins, and school friend, and …….” (I literally named everyone she knows)
Then the subject changed. My daughter doesn’t like HER SKIN. Herself. Her family’s skin. And she’s 4 years old. FOUR. My heart broke.
How can a child, at the mere age of 4, not like her own skin? My daughter’s school is pretty diverse, the students and teachers, too. She’s got children of all colors in her classroom and, aside from my mom, her whole entire family is brown skinned. San Diego, in general, is quite diverse. Where could this specifically be coming from?
Sending a subliminal message
While I can’t accurately pin point it, I know that our society is the main culprit. We idolize fair skinned celebrities, hire thin, pale models for major ad campaigns and worship Elsa and Anna from Disney’s FROZEN movie. The vast majority of attention, praise, excitement and sense of heroism revolves around being white. There’s really nothing for, or that looks like, US. Nothing that shows brown people as major parts of natural, everyday life. We rarely see people with brown skin, locks of curls, deep brown eyes or even hijabs in positive situations that reinforce our existence, saying, “Hey, we recognize you exist, you’re important too.”
Sigh, on top of sigh, with another major SIGH. Growing up, it wasn’t until middle school that I realized that people looked at me differently because i’m brown. My little girl hasn’t even started kindergarten yet and she already knows that she’s different in this world, and she doesn’t think that it’s ok.
It IS ok, Brown is Beautiful!
I do applaud the strides made by some, Disney has a new beautifully brown Polynesian princess, Moana, and we had Tiana for a second. There are a few childrens books and TV shows that have brown people in them, but it’s terrifying to realize that the vast majority of being and seeing brown in mainstream media is negative. Catty reality shows make us look like horrible humans. I refuse to watch BET. Brown celebrities are ridiculed. Don’t even get me started on music and videos.
While we don’t watch any of this crap, one of the things that I can control, I can’t control the advertisements on bus stops as we’re driving through the city, the infomercials that come on in between cartoons with carefully chosen fair skinned children, the photos of the happy blondies on the wall in the dentists office, and the billboards full of bail bonds ads with brown families on them.
It looks like I will have to work overtime to make sure my daughter knows she’s important, beautiful and loved, no matter how she looks. Her heart is gold and as she ages and matures, I want her self esteem to rise along with it. I will do everything that I can to show her positive images of all people, but especially which represent people like her. I won’t even lie, it’s hard to paddle upstream but I am leading by positive example.
So no matter what you are, African American, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, or mixed with a little bit of everything, you are BEAUTIFULLY BROWN! Love it, embrace it, and teach your children to as well. Parents, of children of all colors, shapes, sizes, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.