I, fortunately, grew up surrounded by brown people. My mother comes from a long line of Afro-Latinos from Puerto Rico and because I mostly grew up around her side of the family — which included her African-American stepfather and siblings — that is what I knew. Even my cousins on her side are all multi-racial and/or multi-ethnic. My dad is a White Puerto Rican, but most of his family didn’t live nearby so we didn’t see them often.
In school, I did notice that there were a lot of lighter-skinned Latinos — I was always one of the darkest. But I felt more of a divide due to the fact that I wasn’t fully bilingual than because of the color of my skin. But in general, I didn’t feel touched or affected by the implicit racism and colorism that seems to plague many Latinx homes, families and communities. I honestly didn’t think about skin tone much until I lived in Mississippi for a couple of years as a teenager. That was when I began to feel for the first time how real racism really is. Then I married and started a family with a biracial man (who is half black and half white) and all of our melanin combined produced two truly brown little bundles of joy.
Our children are both darker than us and have gorgeous, spirally curls and facial features that reveal their multi-ethnic genes. I’ve thought more about color and race in the past seven years than I ever did before becoming a parent. To me, my children are my children. They are multi-racial, Afro-Latinx, brilliant, funny, energetic, resilient and completely awesome human beings. But I know that as they get older and spend more time away from me and their father, they will be judged.
They’ll be assessed based on their skin tones, their unique appearances, their cultural references, the music they listen to and even the food they eat. There will be people who make assumptions about them based on color, but before that happens I fully intend to prepare them for what’s to come. They are still little, so our conversations about race and color are less overt, but we do have them. Here are some things I’m doing and discussing to help them understand and even challenge racism and colorism.