The Skin They’re In: How Does Your Brown Boy See Himself?

By on Oct 3, 2014 in Education, Parenting | 6 comments

Share On GoogleShare On FacebookShare On Twitter

Today’s BrownBoyGenius post is by Najat Shamsid-Deen, a new mom, blogger, and co-author of The Prince and TimberanceIf you’d like to submit a post to our site, shoot us an email at brownboygenius@gmail.com.


How Does Your Brown Boy See Himself?


I am a new mother, but before that, I was an aunt and teacher of brown boys. Boys with the most striking eyes, skin that ranged from the deepest and darkest to the fairest of earth tones, boys who were all beautiful and admirable in their own way.

And yet, I have yet to see one who draws himself accurately.

You would be surprised at how many of our brown boys reach for the beige and yellow crayons, adorning themselves with straight, yellow-as-the-sun hair, and skin as pale as ever. You don’t need to read the results of the Doll Test or even take a poll; just pick up a pack of crayons, and sit alongside your brown boy. Chances are, until he reaches a certain age, he too, may draw himself as he sees most cartoon characters drawn.

It was a heartbreaking day when one boy in particular, as dark and more handsome than Mekhi Phifer (no joke-people thought this kid should be a child model)  drew himself with only the yellow and beige crayons. I asked him if that was how he looked, and he emphatically said yes. I asked him should he try to use the brown crayon and he shook his head no.72222

When I tell you I wanted to cry, that is no understatement. But I took action. I drew myself, and I made sure to talk about why I used the brown crayon and rubbed it so the color showed up rich and dark, like my skin. I took the black crayon and drew my hair and mentioned out loud how dark hair and eyes are beautiful.

I decided then that I would give this boy gifts-any chance I got, that reflected back to him how his brownness WAS present and seen in the world. You  know, our brown boys have a unique dilemma. They aren’t encouraged to have Doc  McStuffins’ or Princess Tiana themed parties, or play with dolls. Their action figures and prominent cartoon characters like Spiderman, Spongebob, or Phineas and Ferb look nothing like them.

So what do you do?

You go out and you seek the things that they should have to enforce their beauty, their presence, and their likeness.  Soon, I will share some of my favorite, affordable toys and products to remind brown boys that they, too, are celebrated and should see themselves in their greatness from the books they read (here’s our list), to the toys they play with, and to the décor in their rooms.

How do you make sure your brown boy is affirmed? 

Related Post


  1. safiyyah shamsiddeen

    October 3, 2014

    Post a Reply

    My brown and chocolate babies have no white toys. I do not press or perm my daughters hair usually its in a afro. I tell them all the time how beautiful they are and the color of there skin. My daughter has no Barbie’s only brown dolls. Great article Najat

  2. HR

    October 3, 2014

    Post a Reply

    We make sure that our beautiful brown son is affirmed using only positive words to compliment his outstandingly good looks, abilities, accomplishments, and dreams for the future. We search to find various toys that he can relate to and see himself in, or that are from his birth country. The latest was an adorable brown pirate from: www_cookyousomenoodles_com

    • Ernest and linda Wilson.

      October 3, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Very good piece. As a society we focus on our girls, and we forget that our brown boys need affirmation that they are handsome and can be all that God created them to be

  3. Kali

    October 5, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Thanks to everyone for sharing. Taking notes for my future brown boys and girls!

    • Alicia Carlson

      October 8, 2014

      Post a Reply

      We are a transracial adoptive family, with 5 kids including: one beautiful girl born in Ethiopia, and one handsome boy coming home from Haiti. We offer dolls of various shades, work very hard to fill our bookshelves with books with kids/characters of black, brown, white, tan skin. We are intentional to introduce our kids to positive African musicans, authors, actors, movies, music, etc. Home educating our kids gives us opportunity to include our kids’ birth countries into our curriculum. We talk about race, how each of us is unique, beautiful, and all made by the same Creator.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *