The Color Brown
The color brown is defined as: any of a group of colors between red and yellow in hue, of medium to low lightness, and of moderate to low saturation: a brown-skinned person (Merriam- Webster Dictionary, 1a). A brown- skinned person is what I am, I am brown. Never ever thought much of it; that is what I have always been and that is what I have been surrounded with. Yet, it was not until I started my first day of middle school.
Brown was not just a color between the shades of red and yellow. It was now being a part of a minority, poor, in need of academic assistance, and basically seen as less than.
Here I was, a 12-year-old brown little girl walking into my math class. As usual, as nervous as anyone would get when going on a date with someone, meeting someone new, first day of work, and the first day of school. I did not know what to expect but I hoped that my day would go great, but like they say, expect the unexpected.
The whole car ride home I was silent besides the reply to my mom’s question of how was your first day back,
It was good I said.
I had never felt so vulnerable and ugly; ugly was the best word to describe it at that time. When I got home and laid on my bed I just replayed what had been said about me and started to cry; Ewe I dont want to sit next to someone whos brown, shes dirty Shes Mexican, the kid said.
Everyone laughed, and I felt so small but acted like nothing phased me and sat down. I had to pretend that what he had said was okay and laugh with everyone, when it was not. The week went by and the kids were not any nicer. No one wanted to share with me, no one wanted to talk to me, and no one tried to make me feel better. I did not expect anyone to, but Id hope that one would change that.
As the semester went by, I began to feel ashamed of who I was and felt ugly in my brown skin. Constantly figuring out ways to lighten my skin and essentially be less Mexican. I wanted to completely get rid of my culture because that is why and how I got my brown skin. I was ashamed of being Mexican because at my school the kids made me feel as if I was not worthy enough and held me at a standard lower than everyone else simply because of the color of my skin. Although, I did make friends along the way and met other brown kids, subconsciously I always tried to be less Mexican and conform to what the other kids wanted me to be so that I could fit in or at least not look as brown.
As a kid, I was aware of my skin color. In fact, I loved it because the people around me were just like me: my dad, my siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Yet, that incident caused me to lose a part of me. I wanted to be someone I was not because of the constant discrimination I faced in middle school. It got to a point in which I was tired of putting on a show. I am brown I told myself; I am brown because of my heritage, my culture; brown is who I am and who I will always be.
Of course, I was different, not just because of the color of my skin, but because my father moved to America with nothing. As I grew older I realized that through the history of my father and of identity, my brownness allows fluidity. I do not have to condone to being white and black to someone. I like to think of it like a spectrum, I am somewhere in the middle. It is not about fitting in or belonging it is just a space we occupy: the middle. Brown means so much more to me now than what it ever did before. It is history, my background, my culture, my everything.
The color of my skin reflects what my father’s family went through. My father grew up in Mexico with nothing. He lived in poverty and because he was the eldest he had to care for everyone in his household. As a result of being another source of income, he did not continue school and instead helped my grandparents financially. That is where the beginning of their journey begins. In hopes of reversing the poverty they lived in, they made a journey to America. My father never has words to describe what this journey was like but says that he never wishes this upon anyone. I could only imagine what my father and his family went through to get here. Once here, the journey did not stop. Although it was not easy, he pushed his family ahead and continued to be their motivator and pushed through the boundaries, many obstacles and discrimination he faced. His hard work and perseverance are what got him to where he is now. My father has now been a citizen for more than 25 years and is a CEO of a jewelry company. Not to mention, the beautiful family my father and mother have created. His challenges, hardships, discrimination, struggles, and triumphs are brown.
Our traditions are the color brown. The Mexican culture is a culture that is very family orientated and it is so beautiful. From the tamales we make on Christmas day to the Day of the Dead, to the fiestas (parties) we have. There is nothing like waking up on the holidays to the smell of freshly made tamales and pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) with cafe de la oja (coffee). It is a scent that just warms the heart and makes you feel so at ease, like this is what being Mexican is. The family gatherings we have; the whole block, everyone is invited. We are always prepared for a party and everyone is always invited despite what you look like. The tacos, pozole, biria, rice, and beans is the color brown. The religious celebrations we have, like el dia de le virgin (Day of the Virgen): it is on December 12 and brings everyone together to celebrate a saint. It is filled with a series of prayers and ends with a party. You can hear mariachi from one side of the room and hear cumbias on the other to the compadres chismeando (friends talking). This is what brown means to me now, it is my culture and traditions; it is family.
Yes, there will always be discrimination when it comes to being brown, but I am no longer ashamed, nor should I ever feel ashamed of my skin because it is beautiful. It is who I am and who I will always be, and I should be proud. The color brown is my identity, my ancestors and fathers story, my culture, and ethnicity. My brownness is seen as a privilege to me. Never should I feel limited or ashamed of it. It is not about being apart or being part of something, just be you. The color brown to me is now defined as: the hardships faced, the Mexican culture, and the love we have for one another, la familia ( Ramirez, Stephanie, 2019).
Brown. Entry 2. In Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam Webster,