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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Black Voices: My Brown is Beautiful

Grace Kellogg and her niece, Naomi.  (Grace Kellogg)
Grace Kellogg and her niece, Naomi. (Grace Kellogg)
By Grace Kellogg For The Spokesman-Review


When you look up that definition the only thing Google can tell you is, “To intentionally hide some kind of wrongdoing, error, or unpleasant situation.”

I didn’t understand.

I didn’t understand how wearing sweaters in the fall and drinking lattes could give me such a label.

And I especially didn’t understand why the word whitewashed hurt me the way that it did.

“Act more Black. You’re being a basic white girl.”

“Oh, you have white parents, don’t you?”

Act Black.

Act white.

I was both.

Why couldn’t I just be both?

Why did I have to grow up with the reality that racial profiling and ignorant remarks were inevitable?

A white woman in the grocery stores would waltz up to me, without warning dig a hand into my curls and twirl one around her finger and with wide eyes they would all say the same thing.

“It’s beautiful! How do you manage to take care of it?”

I grit my teeth, mutter a quick thank you, and get along with my day.

I didn’t understand why I was so different, why people saw me in a different light as soon as I would explain I was adopted.

Twelve years old was too young to be having an identity crisis that I couldn’t tell anyone about because everyone in my life was white.

Twelve years old was too young to wish I didn’t look the way I did.

That my curls would fall flat, and my melanin would disappear into something a little paler.

I felt alone, like no one else in the world understood what I was feeling and telling my parents or any of the girls from school would make me a burden, so I kept the feelings to myself.

Now, five years later my older brother married a Black woman and together they had my niece, Naomi. It wasn’t until I got to hold her for the first time that I realized her brown is beautiful.

How could I love Naomi’s brown and hate my own.

I couldn’t.

I want nothing more than to be the person she looks to for guidance when she has questions of her own.

So, as a Brown girl in Spokane, a predominately white town, I can only speak from my own perspective, but I can say when the name-calling and shaming from my white peers happens, the majority of it comes from a place of stereotypes and preconceived notions. It took me a long time to realize that I can do the things that make me happy, even if they don’t fit into anyone’s cultural expectations.

Over the past five years I’ve grown to love my brown skin and my curls, even though it took a lot of shaming and name-calling to learn I will never make everyone happy.

Terms like whitewashed are arbitrary and meaningless. This type of thinking that people of color must think or act a certain way is inherently racist.

I get to decide my future.

And my niece will get to decide hers.

Brown is beautiful, and no one will ever again get me to believe anything different.

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