Celebrating Diversity: We’re All Different Shades Of Brown
When you’re part of a multi-ethnic, multi-everything family, there are lots of differences. Languages, traditions, superstitions, cuisines – not to mention cultural misunderstandings. For example, the word “Compromise” means one thing in English, yet in Spanish, “Compromiso” means “Commitment”.
Well, that led to an interesting conversation, I can tell you. *flicks hair, sniffs, rearranges composure*
Anyway, my own family heritage, bloodlines, and origin are best described as a Heinz 57 combo. Father’s side? Simple: 100% Chinese. Easy peasy, lemon chicken squeezy. Utterly undiluted and very traditional. *does hand gesture and bows*
Mother’s side is a little more complex. Her father was half Japanese, half Scottish. Her mother was Italian, Cambodian and I forget what else, but there’s more in there. I’m rather proud, really, that our grandparents broke many-a-taboo by marrying into other cultures at a time when it simply wasn’t done. They also married across religions and caused quite the drama, but that’s for another post.
In my generation, my brother married an Irish/Welsh lass with almost jet black hair, porcelain skin and green eyes; my sister married a blonde American surfer – a Santa Cruz bro; and I married a Spanish/Mexican. Our offspring are blonde through dark brown, blue, brown and green-eyed, multi-language speaking littles. When my cousins, my siblings and I get our offspring all together, we put any United Colours of Benetton ad to shame.
Our 5-year-old son faced his first racist encounter recently.
He was told by a classmate that he wasn’t allowed to play Captain America because of his “brown skin”. This manifested itself in him refusing to leave the house without his face entirely covered. Talk about a massive stab to my heart, with memories of being called slitty-eyed and the abject shame I felt.
My first reaction was to petrol bomb the other child’s home. I know, a tad over-the-top and counterproductive… not to mention the inevitable jail time and grim prison outfit. Instead, I sat our chap down and explained that none of us are white, we are all different shades of brown. Some of us are light skinned, some dark.
Underneath, we are all the same, and Captain America would certainly agree.
The entire time I felt quite sick. Our little fellow, so proud of his Mexican heritage, suddenly felt he wasn’t “allowed” to be who he is. We let him wear his Sir Lancelot full-face jousting mask to watch The Nutcracker at the theater. It was, for the night, his security blanket.
Thankfully his school is being proactive about nipping this in the bud. They are giving lessons on melanin, showing how depending on where one’s born, one’s skin color differs. Those born in countries with lots of sun = lots of melanin = darker skin. Those born in countries with less = you get the drift. The underlying lesson is that we have no control over where we are born; and underneath our skin, we are all the same.
Perhaps a lesson that some adults might learn from too. Children are born without a racist bone in their body. All they learn, they learn from adults.
In a time where being “foreign” might make one feel trepidation, discomfort, fear and even shame, let’s look at our differences and instead of seeing the negatives, find the positives and celebrate them.
It’s more important than ever to focus on celebrating diversity.