A Sea of Brown

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Husband: “I spy with my little eye something that is brown!”

Daughter: Looks around the room carefully and then at him. “You! You brown! Brown, brown, brown!”

Husband: “You’re right! I am brown, but that’s not what I was looking at. Do you see anything else, brown?”

Daughter: Looks around the room and then at her own arms. “Me! I brown! Brown, brown, brown!”

We all have a good laugh and then she looks over at me and runs over. “But mommy white! White, white, white!”

When my daughter was born, I made it clear to all of our friends and family that the pages of her books would be filled with diversity and the faces of her baby dolls would be all shades. Everyone so lovingly accommodated our requests, making sure she was exposed to as many little brown girls (and boys) as possible. It was clear that we were surrounded by people who wanted her to feel accepted, loved, and validated for everything that she is, including, but not limited to, her skin color.

As her mother, the woman who carried her for 9 months (but if we’re being honest, 10), endured 18 hours of labor and pushed her out of my body, I felt a little lost in the sea of brown. I found myself feeling forgotten, like nobody remembered that she was ALSO half of me. I shamed myself for these emotions for a long time. I’ve been embarrassed to admit that each brown baby doll made me feel a little less validated as a mother – as her mother.

Is this normal? Maybe. Is it valid? I don’t know. I could liken it to someone telling you that your baby looks JUST like their daddy and they can’t see a bit of you in them. As a mother, something about that just stings. I guess this is different though. This is more complicated and goes much deeper simply because it has to do with skin color. Who am I, the privileged white girl, to have any feelings of being lost in the mix? The thing is, she’s never going to have to defend her whiteness. The thing is, because of our societal structure, she is never going to have to explain to someone why her whiteness matters. The thing is, the half of her that is white, will always be automatically accepted.

It’s hard for me to accept that there is an entire part of her that I will never fully understand.

No matter how hard I try, I will never know what it feels like to be anything other than white. There are going to be things that happen to her and are said to her that I can’t prevent. What I can do, is arm her with confidence. I can celebrate her blackness with a sea of brown baby dolls and pages filled with color so she knows she’s not alone. She knows our skin colors don’t match, and yet she knows I’m her mama. Ultimately, we don’t want her to be colorblind. We want her to see all shades, to celebrate all shades, and to understand what our differences mean.

As a white mother raising brown babies who are going to grow up with the babies of those of you reading this, I ask that you also fill the pages of your children’s books with color and be sure that their toys, TV shows, and movies include faces of all shades. It’s the first step.

Here are some of our favorite books that include diversity.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

And here’s another excellent list.

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Elissa Menefield
I am a born and raised Cincinnatian living in Reading with my husband and two year old daughter. I even stayed local for college and earned my Bachelors of Fine Arts at Xavier University. After graduating, I worked at the Cincinnati Art Museum where I met my husband of 4.5 years. Currently, I'm a full time working mama with a side hustle that allows me to focus on my passions of art, education, and kids. My favorite things in the world include doing art projects with my little one, playing board games, listening to music, watching reality tv, eating good food, making good food, and watching documentaries about good food.

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