Heather Dalby, Baltimore, MD. My Little was 9 years old when she asked me this question while we colored with crayons. She is a brilliant character with an abundance of self confidence, so her question surprised me. Her family is from everywhere; the US, Great Britain, and the Caribbean to name a few. Her skin […]
Victor Vega, Los Angeles, CA. What troubles is on his mind? What’s he hiding from the camera? What’s in his jacket? That’s what I think when I see a picture of mine taken from several years back. If a white person was wearing street attire, one might think he’s cool, trendy, or might not even […]
Georgia Calhoun Kingwood, TX
Gil L. Pettigrew, MS, The Federated States of Micronesia. I have a very strong, very proud cultural heritage; I’m a North American Mestizo, 50% Native American (Creek and Cherokee; my tribal enrollment/citizenship is with the Echota Band of the Eastern Cherokee Nation) & 50% a mashup of Scots-Latin-AfricanAmerican-Welsh-french. I self ID as Native American, because […]
Katie Moore New Echota, GA I used to hate the way I looked growing up. My mom & brother had fair skin & freckles & I had darker skin & hair. I like the way I look now. I’m proud of my heritage. I am of cherokee, creek, German,& African decent. I stand taller than […]
Jade Watson New York, NY I don’t have anything against interracial dating, but I choose to date and want to marry a black man, because I want my babies- my family to be black. I love being black. I love what being black has meant to my life. I love being a part of a […]
Nancy Rawn Storrs, CT I have been so proud of my beautiful boy for all of his 20 years. He struggled with so many high school identity issues but it has been especially painful to watch him struggle with the big question of “Who am I?” in this white community and white family. He has […]
Nicole Bodenstein Milwaukee, WI I’m allowed to have a German last name.
Catherine Marden El Cerrito, CA My mother is from El Salvador. My father is from Kentucky. I grew up in rural Oregon. I didn’t know I was half-hispanic until I realized checking the hispanic box on college applications might help me get accepted. To this day I struggle with my Salvadoran ancestry. I am white. […]
Beatriz Mallory Newfoundland, PA My father was one of the first black men to work at IBM in the late 50’s; my mother a Puerto Rican who migrated to NY to go to college. My father embedded this mantra in my head from a very age. I was a “little brown girl” in a world […]
Amina Long Island City, NY
Kristine Ratanaphruks Durham, NC I look ethnically ambiguous and, at times, I pass for white. I grew up watching white men call my father “boy” — I’ve heard countless racist remarks made by people who don’t realize my heritage — I’ve heard the question ” What are you? ” too many times to count and […]
Annie Chicago, IL I AM NOT AFRICAN, NEVER BEEN THERE AND DON’ CARE TO GO. I WAS BORN ON AMERICA SOIL. DON’T CALL/LABEL ME ONETHING SO ONE RACE CAN FEEL SUPERIOR OR LESS DOMINANT. I HAVE YET TO SEE A BLACK PERSON OR A WHITE PERSON. WHERE ARE THEY?
Nikole Hannah-Jones Brooklyn, NY
Leah Perlongo NH Shopping, walking or jogging on the street, sitting in a park; I always feel people eyeing me suspiciously. People will always remember me, because I stand out by having a different skin color. Why suspect every single movement I make more than those of your paler neighbor with a criminal history five […]
Lauren Anderson Kansas City, MO I’m not sure what I would consider myself. The only thing that I know is that I am brown-skinned, but light-skinned. Many believe I am mixed with another race or other race(s), but my parents are both Black. I’m not really sure what it means to be Black or where […]
Anne Hickling Phoenix, AZ I don’t know how to answer this when she asks. The answer is both “Yes” and “No.” Her Cuban grandparents self-identify as white, but here in the SW borderlands, she likely is seen by many as one of those “brown” people, you know, the ones who crossed the border legally or […]
Max Haverhill, MA I’m an American with mostly German and Italian backgrounds. When the warmer months begin, I tend to get tanner than many friends of mine, likely because of the Italian background. I have been confused for other races in the past; there’s a photo in my home of me an my African-American cousin. […]
Caty Salas Oakland, CA Being a guessing game gets old. PC-ness has cut down on questions like “What are you?”, “What color are you?”, and “Is that really your hair?”, all of which used to sincerely baffle me when I was a kid. Now they just ask me where I’m from. Endlessly. I am from […]
Cristian Amaya Mountain View, CA Most of the time people in general assume I’m Mexican because of my brownish skin color and because i speak Spanish. I never get offended by it because Mexico is a great country, but I fell is somewhat stereotypical that people assume you’re from there just because of your appearance. […]
Tonia Torrence Salt Lake City, UT My six words are based on experience as a mediator for the juvenile Victim/Offender mediation program for the Salt Lake Courts. Schoolgirl fight, brown punished, not white or Middle-school fight, brown punished, not white Two middle-school girls were in the mediation with their mothers. The blond white girl had […]
John Q. Kontos Chicago, IL Sometimes, I wish that there were alien cultures that were a potential threat to our existence on earth, then and perhaps only then, would we view ourselves as one people instead of our current hateful and racist thinking. We all need a reminder from time to time that we are […]
Asheley Woodruff Burtonsville, MD My family recently moved from Idaho to Maryland. For the first time, my children were immersed in a racially diverse population. I realized, quickly, that my children did not understand that the United States is not a white country with a few Black, Hispanic, Asian people living in it. Furthermore, we […]
Chris Apriori Minneapolis, MN It was a childhood game… or so they thought. One I would play for the rest of my life. Now I’m caught between the knowledge and a loss for words…
Anil Oommen Eugene, OR University of Oregon I am brown, a Malayalee, a person of Indian descent in a primarily white setting. This is often awkward. It is not unusual for me to feel like a misplaced comma, in the fluid sentences of white experience. Only when I limit what I say and refrain from […]
Danica Mancini Portsmouth, VA
Allison Valeri Charlotte, NC In 2011, I took a trip to Kenya, Africa where my team and I were welcomed in as family. We were all white, a lot of us with blond hair and blue eyes, and one person with red hair. We were a sight to be seen. We stayed in an area […]
Paul Ruscher Eugene, OR Explore Identity It is time to ignore appearance…it facilitates judging others. I am a father of 11 including 5 adopted kids and I love them all and wish others did. but my biological kids (Caucasian) have always been more accepted than my darker complected ones (adopted from India and some from […]
Gabrielle Guzman San Diego, CA Yes, I am Mexican. Yes, I know I apparently hold the same facial features as someone who would be considered Asian. No, I did not just cross the border. No, I do not speak Spanish, although I can understand it fluently and am taking classes to learn it. I am […]
Twanna Robinson Thomasville, NC In Sunday school one morning, a new child asked me why my skin was so dark. I told her it was because I am a black person. She looked at me for a minute and said nothing else to me for the rest of the hour. When her mother, picked her […]
Steve Keating Canton, MI When I was three I saw my across-the-stree neighbor for the first time. He was black and I greew up in a very predominantly white area. I called across the street to him: “you’re brown!” Kids are, after all, very literal and I was stating what I thought to be obvious […]
Raúl Sánchez Seattle, WA Racial profiles are not AMERICAN, I am!
Sarah Day Waynesboro , VA I have an adopted child and a biological child. My son looks Hispanic, Arabic, you choose. I fear for him, have seen him pulled out of line at airports for scrutiny I have never faced. Some say he has advantages but I see no evidence of that anywhere. The world, […]
Elisa Espitia Palmdale, CA It’s not where you came from, but where you’re going. Assumptions
Michelle C-H Dorchester , MA When I was a little kid, in the 70’s, My family was the only black folks most of the people around us had ever seen. Everyday in my elementary school I got some ignorant comment. “Are you brown cuz you eat brown bread?” and the like. The worst was from […]
Renu Gehring Portland, OR I am an ethnically Indian woman married to a white man. Our two kids are a happy blend of brown and white. We live in a community that has a large number of recent Indian immigrants. I am surprised by their reaction when they see me with my children. When they […]
Carmen Bunkers Velazquez Pomona, CA I have always loved being with my mom’s side of the family, the Velazquez family. I think they have always felt safe because I identify myself through my mom’s racial and ethnic identity, Mexican American, and so with them I feel that I can be who I really am. Knowing […]
Ananya Kepper Santa Monica, CA I walk around feeling like myself, not like an Indian woman in a sea of white people. It still catches me off guard when people ask “Where are you from?” “Santa Monica,” I reply, every time. “I was born in St. John’s Hospital on Santa Monica Blvd.” I make them […]
Adana Seattle, WA I have 2 children. My son looks just like his papa: dark, wavy hair and alabaster skin. My daughter looks like me: golden skin and curly brown hair. When I’m out with my son, I’m asked if I’m his nanny. When I’m out with both kids, I’m asked if they have the […]
Natalia Lopez Los Angeles, CA Growing up in East LA and being told I was one of the “good children”, I played into the identity that I was and will always be an exception to my peoples inferiority. Striving to be more like the white girls I saw on television made me feel like I […]
Rita Kane Los Angeles, CA Recessive genes will never allow the human race to fade to one color, as some people fear. It’s the opposite. We aren’t fading to brown. We probably started out that way. But time has actually evolved us into distinctive groups. The possibility for different colors is in the DNA. The […]
Dr. Carmen Beverly Auburn, AL Not your nurse, maid or clerk…really a fierce brown lady doctor trying to keep everyone well.
Marie Lynn Miranda Ann Arbor, MI
Liz Hohl Oakland, CA Race is so intrinsically linked and correlated to wealth, education, and power. I frequently consider my surroundings and realize how few daily interactions I have with people who are not white. My job, my community, my wealth accentuate disparities and separations that fall along lines of ethnicity and skin color. In […]
Rabia Syed Ann Arbor, MI These six words represent how I feel about myself when people make assumptions as to the kind of person that I am. Being brown and Muslim makes me easy to lump with a large number of people, whom I do not necessarily see myself being similar to. When people see […]
Kehaulani H. Minzghor Portland, OR
Kerri Wakefield Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan
Rabia Syed Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan These six words represent how I feel about myself when people make assumptions as to the kind of person that I am. Being brown and Muslim makes me easy to lump with a large number of people, whom I do not necessarily see myself […]
Karen Sulmonetti Falls Church, VA My son was born in Guatemala and is very brown with beautiful dark brown, circle eyes and dark brown hair. As an adopted child, he has grown up with white parents and enjoys life in America. Even though we educate him on his birth country, he is all-American because of […]
Anonymous Yuma, AZ I am the only brown person in my newsroom. What luck to work somewhere where issues and stories about people of color are not ignored, but why am I the only one assigned to these stories? Do I become the “Brown” reporter? Or do I see these important stories ignored?
Sandy Beverly Lawrence, KS
J White Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project, University of Michigan
Dan Euliss Vancouver, WA You get to feel the other side of the race card.
Brenna Angel Lexington, KY Question I was asked as a child by kids in my apartment building. My mom (white) and dad (Mexican) are divorced so the kids didn’t know why my mom would be raising a little brown-skinned girl.
Dina Stonberg Philadelphia, PA I have had the privilege to not have to think about race most of my life. Fell in love with a wonderful, kind, caring African American man – formed our family through adoption and now have the privilege of raising a beautiful, smart African American daughter. She is a joy every […]
Samantha Submitted via Twitter: @dsc00 My mom’s advice to my sister and I while growing up. For the longest I resented my fair skinned mom for making us feel inferior. Time has healed some of the pain but not all. Funny thing is both my sister & I ended up with white partners. So […]
Norene Lealamanua Portland, OR My very white family was confused by my choices until they fell head over heels for my exceptionally smart, beautiful brown children!
Juan-Day Charlottesville, VA I chose these words because there’s nothing left to say. I’ve grown tired of the same dance around this issue. Race matters because history matters. History hasn’t been kind to brown skin. Educate yourself and your loved ones. If WE don’t appreciate our brown-ness it’s laughable to expect others to.
Damian Solorzano Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation
Smith Brown Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation
Sadie Murray Fort Worth, TX Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation