Monday, December 5, 2011

black is brown is tan

We went to the library over the weekend, and my partner checked out a book from his childhood that had me in tears on the drive home. This is saying a lot, given that we only get books for Epsilon at the library. It is a truly well written kid's book, and I highly recommend it for anyone with an interracial family. But that is not the point of today's post.

I think most of the tears came from the realization that black is brown is tan, one of the original children's books about interracial families, was written in 1973, when a family with an African American mother and a white father was still not recognized as a family in 29 states.

black is brown is tan
is girl is boy
is nose is
is all
of the race

And then of course there are the words that ring comfortingly true to a brown girl growing up in a white suburb, who could not stand to see any part of her skin in her field of vision when she was hanging out with her white friends in high school.

i am black I am brown the milk is the chocolate brown
i am the color of the milk   chocolate cheeks

Or the "Well, duh!" moment in the verses for the father:

i am white the milk is white
i am not the color of the milk

I've read several children's books about race and family, about bi-racial or multi cultural homes. They all sound the same after a while, and they are all published in the 90s or the naughts. I know how my family and the families of some of my friends are currently struggling with the interracial choices my generation has made. But these lines were written a few years before my birth.

there is granny white and grandma black
kissing both your cheeks
                                                        and hugging back
sitting by the window telling stories of ago.

My partner finished the book, I wiped my eyes and finished driving home. As we talked about the book throughout the day I realized that the color difference between my parents is at least as, if not more extreme than the color difference between my partner and I. No one blinked an eyelash about that aspect of my family, since we were not inter-racial in American eyes. We now live in a cosmopolitan enough setting that few people bother us. But if I can get a job near my partner, that all is going to change.

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