Now that I’m a mom, I’ve noticed (even more than usual) how obsessed people are with putting everyone into boxes. Whether they are boxes of gender, race, class, or education — people here in good ol’ ‘Merikkka REALLY want everyone to fit into them.
This is super applicable when it comes to race and skin color, maybe more than anything else. My son is CLEARLY my son. We have pretty much the same face, but he’s lighter skinned than me. I’d say if we were using Crayola colors to describe skin tone, mine would be like burnt sienna and his would be like caramel.
People have asked me if I’m his nanny when I’ve taken him to the park. No, I didn’t punch them in the face, I just gently said, “No, he’s my son. We have the same face.” And let them wallow in their discomfort as I refuse to walk away and continue to push him on the swings like “What? Am I making you uncomfortable by taking up space now that you said something super stupid?”
So it REALLY bugs me when people say they are color-blind. Because it’s:
A) Not fucking true
B) Another way to erase the gorgeous multitude of skin tones that make us diverse
C) Is a coded way to tell a POC, “You don’t matter to me”
I want you to notice my color. It’s beautiful. My ancestors have passed down my brown skin through generations. I’m a beautiful brown woman.
This is also why it pisses me off when white-passing Latinxs try to claim “brown” as an identity because, well, NOPE. Have you ever been stopped by the cops because of the color of your skin? Have you ever been denied service in establishments across Latin America because of the color of your skin? Has your suegra ever been asked why she would let her son date you because of the color of your skin?
I DIDN’T THINK SO.
There is a way to acknowledge the differences between our skin tones with love and understanding without fetishizing it. Yes, I know it’s pretty hot to be a “Brown Girl” right now. We can probably thank the wonderful, beautiful, and talented Prisca Mojica Rodriguez for that (luh ya girl). But that doesn’t mean that you just get to jump on the bandwagon to commercialize our identity and try to make money off of it.
It’s another insidious form of cultural appropriation in a way. You get to try on this identity for social media, or for your blog, or podcast, or whatever it is you’re schilling that day, and then at the end of the day, you get to take it right back off. Maybe you were even one of those Latinxs who grew up checking “white” as your race your whole life. So, no, now that we are “trendy” you do not get to hop on the bandwagon of being a brown girl. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into fighting for our own identities. For making spaces for ourselves. For forcing our ways into places where you could just sashay right through the door.
So please, take all the seats.
We need to figure out ways to acknowledge and uphold our multiple and various identities without commodifying them or using them to label people on a spectrum of good to bad, or worthy to unworthy. Yeah, it’s annoying that folks want to be able to put everyone into boxes, but in recognizing that tendency in our society, we can begin to address ways to dismantle it, without losing ourselves and all the rich complexity of our identities at the same time.
Claiming ones that do not belong to us just because they are trendy is not the way to go about it. So, unless you have lived the struggle of a brown girl, then don’t call yourself one. Be an ally, be a sister, be a friend, be an amplifier, just don’t try to be something that you’re not.