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Using “Brown” to Describle Skin?
Posted: 30 April 2010 03:29 PM   Ignore ]  
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In my blog, http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/talking_to_kids_about_race_transracial_adoptive_parenting/, I say how I am not offended by children using the color “Brown” to describe skin color.  Some of my friends (who have bio-kids who are Caucasian) think it’s not appropriate and were shocked by my opinions

What do you think?  Have you been in a similar situation?  How did you handle it?

Posted: 30 April 2010 04:19 PM   Ignore ]  
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Hmmm ... Our family lives in the Midwest, too, and we belong to two adoption support groups - one with a multiracial family focus. Every family member of color I can think of—children old enough to talk included—refers to themselves and their family members as brown or black. In popular culture, “brown” is not an uncommon term either (Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling have used it and been referred to as brown). It doesn’t offend our family and I’ve heard people of various skin shades use this term when referring to others, including my son. I remember a friend and a relative both telling us when our child came home how happy they were to have more “brown” people in our circle.

People should refer to themselves by whatever they decide. In one of our support groups, a mother of two tweens adopted from Africa said her children didn’t like being referred to as “black” because their skin is “brown.” They want people to know they are brown.

I like the photography book “Shades of People” by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly because it celebrates all shades of skin and reinforces that skin is just a covering - like wrapping paper - and you can’t tell how someone is inside based on their skin. The book also uses more accurate terms like coffee, cocoa, copper, tan, sandy, peach, creamy, ivory, rose and almond.

While celebrating differences is appropriate, so is recognizing sameness. Our son is getting his first freckles and loves to point at his and then at ours. He has bushy eyebrows like mine. That’s sameness!

Posted: 30 April 2010 04:45 PM   Ignore ]  
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I see nothing wrong with it. Children are just expressing what they are seeing. If you shush them or tell them not to, they will think there is something shameful or wrong about being “brown.” That is not what we want to teach children. The idea of political correctness can be taught later when they are mature enough to understand it.

By the way, I also like the children’s books:

Brown Like Me by Noelle Lampert
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

Posted: 01 May 2010 01:11 AM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  30
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Hi Danielle,

Last summer at Ethiopian Heritage Camp the keynote speaker was Boston College Professor Janet Helms, author of “A Race is a Nice Thing to Have.” Dr. Helms studies race, racial identity formation etc. Her book talks about whites’ discomfort with talking about race as being the starting point of white racial identity development, i.e. when somebody says “I’m colorblind,” they’re actually extremely uncomfortable talking about race and struggling with uncomfortable feelings about difference, race and culture.  I think this describes many whites who haven’t had a lot of interaction with folks who look different from them. Dr. Helms theory is too involved to explain here, but essentially she sees white racial identity as moving from alleged colorblindness through overt racism and other points of view, until the individual arrives at a place where they appreciate other races and cultures and feel comfortable sharing/bring proud of their white racial identity. As the mother of brown children, you may want to check out her book.

Sharon Van Epps

http://www.sharonvanepps.com

http://www.whateverthingsaretrue.com

Posted: 07 May 2010 10:56 PM   Ignore ]  
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I am a caucasian mom with an adopted caucasian daughter. I am in the process of adopting my 4 yr old african american son. When we compare our skin colors he says he is brown. I also show him my skin is brown also. If we look at most of caucasian skin, it isn’t white. This way we compare our similarities. Yes, we note that his skin is a darker brown then mine.I would also like to include that I don’t like the term african american. What am I? German American? I honestly prefer black or brown.

Posted: 07 May 2010 11:49 PM   Ignore ]  
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Our adopted son is from Ethiopia, and when our biological son asked why his new brother’s skin was different, I simply replied “God gave him brown skin, and God gave you pinkish skin.”  He said, “Oh. Ok.”  and that was it.  Kids see the differences in people, so it’s important to give them the opportunity to talk about it and understand it.  They don’t understand what it means to be politically correct (something I think is ridiculous anyway), so they’re going to use the words they understand.  By making a big deal about what terms our children use, we’re actually making a bigger deal out of seeing people only by their skin color.

Posted: 08 May 2010 02:22 AM   Ignore ]  
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My daughter, who is originally from China, also came home one day describing a new friend with “brown skin like mine”, who happened to be from Mexico.  My first reaction was surprise and hesitation - I had never heard someone innocently describe someone by the color of their skin.  Of course in the South especially, it still can be inappropriate to do this.  But, I agree with most others on this blog….descriptions of others of any kind, whether it be the color of someone’s hair, tall, short, or the color of their skin, it’s all in the intent.  My daughter was describing what her new friend looked like.  She likes her new friend and does not judge her by anything other than how nice this girl is to her.  I too disagree with being too politically correct.  Telling a child not to describe someone by the color of their skin only points out to our sad history of prejudice. Kudos to the parents on this blog!!

Posted: 08 May 2010 07:12 AM   Ignore ]  
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I love it!  My children are 9 and have always referred to themselves as “brown.”  For a while I tried correcting them & using PC language, they just did not get it.  When I would say “African American” they would respond “what does that mean?”  I would go into race and ethnicity, but the conversation would end with “people who are brown.”  That they understood.  A book I recommend is titled “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz, one of children’s all time favorites.

Posted: 08 May 2010 05:26 PM   Ignore ]  
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My little girl as well refers to herself as brown and to me as white. I would never tell her she cannot be “brown” because that’s how she sees herself, who cares what the rest of the world thinks/says?! I say, yes you are chocolate, I am vanilla, I LOVE chocolate!! Simple matter of different flavors, and that’s that!! It alarms and saddens me when children are presented with the idea that their race/color is less than desirable, but it’s OK, you are still special, etc. I encountered a children’s book to this effect, and decided my child would never hear that from me. I know she will eventually face that from others, but hopefully by that time she will be solidly secure in who she is, and we will deal with ignorance as it comes.

Posted: 10 May 2010 05:23 AM   Ignore ]  
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The reaction of the woman who scolded her child simply reveals her own insecurity with other races.  She meant well in not wanting her child to offend, but yes, it is okay for kids to say “brown.”  More than okay, it is entirely appropriate.  The child was describing the person accurately and without prejudice.  I (white) recently brought home two children (dark brown) from Ethiopia, and it is Black acquaintances who say things like, “Oh, see how they’re looking me over!  Is it my hat, sweetie?  Or is it because I’m the brown lady?”

Posted: 10 May 2010 06:03 AM   Ignore ]  
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I’m so glad to see other adoptive parents post their opinions about children using the word “brown” to describe themselves and others. I too have corrected my daughter when she describes african americans as “brown”. Just recently she told my mother that “no one else in the family has brown skin like me”. At one point when she was younger I asked her if she wanted to be like Miley Cyrus and be a singer. She promptly told me that she couldn’t be like her because she had brown skin.  I immediately ordered the book ” The colors of us” by Karen Katz. We tell her that her brown skin and silky hair (she has straight hair in a family of curly headed women) is beautiful and we wish we had those features. When she describes a classmate as the “brown skinned girl” I don’t make an issue out of it anymore. I’m sure this is a conversation we’ll have again and again.

Posted: 10 May 2010 08:45 PM   Ignore ]  
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This was actually brought up the other day.  We live in an area that is predominately white or other, but not African American.  My DD is at Chick-fil-A playing in the structure and loudly proclaims she is going to go play with her new friend the brown girl when she gets done eating.
I calmly say to her we do not describe people by color IN OUR FAMILY…just in case she has an argurment that she has heard it done somewhere else.
She said ok… then I knew it was coming…why not,? she is brown, she can call me pink if she wants to. 
I grew up in the opposite atmosphere and city kids were bussed to my school in the suburbs and everyone knew the racial rules, but DD does not understand where or why this is insulting because it is a color, not something mean.
So I had reach down and water down an explanation that some people think color can also mean certain things about you like if your smart or mean.  I told a story of being scared of a white dog because a friends white dog bit me once so I thouht all white dogs were bad. 
She laughed at that and saw it was rediculous, but I know with living here it will come up again.
She is six and will have many hard to answer questions I’m afraid.

Posted: 11 May 2010 03:36 AM   Ignore ]  
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Seems to me, if it is okay to say “the blonde girl”  or “the tall boy” or “the kid with curly hair” then it is also okay to say “the brown girl.” 
Is it okay if a black child refers to you as “white?”.  If it is okay, then surely it is okay for a white child to say someone is “brown.”  If not, then something’s wrong with the GROWNUP’S views, not the child’s.  The grownup is the one with the baggage.

Posted: 11 May 2010 03:51 AM   Ignore ]  
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Actually I agree and I have a daughter who is completely bald from an autoimmune, condition Alopecia Areata.  If someone was refering to her in group of kids and sidestepped around that fact it would seem weird and more obvious.  It is really the intent of the remark. ...and as a blonde I have had my share of quips,  they never stop.  However, they don’t have violence attached to them either.  And either does a litle kids innocent reference to a physical difference.  You are right evemom it’s the adults causing all the problems:(

Posted: 11 May 2010 10:29 PM   Ignore ]  
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My daughter is 6 years old and we adopted her from birth.  Her birthfather is from Trinidad and she has a beautiful pecan brown shade.  We never really called her color anything in particular.  My husband is caucasian but is pretty tan.  Our daughter always said that I was white, she was brown and my husband was red.

We have had talks and read books about race and being different.  Sh was very unhappy when a child called her black at school.  We talked about what different color people may say she is and she said she was brown and that’s what she would be called!  LOL

All I know is that she is my daughter and whatever she feels comfortable with to call herself..i don’t care.

We are just blessed with such a wonderful little girl!

Posted: 11 May 2010 11:08 PM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  3
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Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just love and enjoy the children that we are blessed with and not have to worry about color!

 
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