Today’s BrownBoyGenius post is by Najat Shamsid-Deen, a new mom, blogger, and co-author of The Prince and Timberance. If you’d like to submit a post to our site, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.