There are few phrases as triggering and colloquially violent as the term “black and brown.” The term typically precedes a discussion pertaining to some systemic or social wrong rooted in physiognomy. Moreover, the term suggests a similarity between the experiences of black and non-black people of color. The issues here are plentiful; however, the most significant are the stark differences between black and brown people, revealing the term as both a cultural assault and layered erasure.
One of the core components of cognitive bondage is how black people remain espoused to the anti-black art of deflection. Much of the black collective remains espoused to the systemic and social distortion that blackness as “great” and “deserving” must align with another group overtly associated with these concepts. Thus, the “black and brown” phrasing becomes a way to buffer the internalized belief that blacks must “share” the dialogue of systemic and social oppression.
We are enough, and we inherit a unique trajectory because our experiences are without companions and therefore beyond comparison.
Black people did, after all, build this country.
This is a phrase that, though accruing popularity in phrase, has become something that is said a bit too easily. Something said as if building a country is synonymous to constructing a lego “high-rise.”
When saying that “black people built this country,” I mean that black blood, sweat, and tears watered the crops of capitalism and national culture. I mean that black people are the seeds to the supremacy that would emerge from their sacrifice. I mean, what makes America appealing to others, only exists because we did (collectively speaking).
America is because we were… well, are.
And we, black people, are the original “brown” people, as well.
To be even clearer, brown people deemed and labeled “black” in a colonial effort to establish “whiteness” created America and comprised the white settler mythos of democracy. Those labeled “brown” by those believed to be white, maintain the black-white dichotomy that anchors this nation and have a “coming-to-America” story. Thus, their presence in America is to make good on the ancestral sacrifice of African-descended peoples displaced in America.
“Brown” only exists conceptually because of blackness; thus, pairing the two is to obscure black sacrifice.
This distinction between black and brown is paramount as it conveys the black and brown phrase as null and void.
To consider this parity alongside contemporized discussion of reparations illustrates why comparative colloquialisms are no small matter.
Black and brown foments American mythos and promises to obscure black legacy in the name of inclusion. Notably, blackness as a comparative experience posits reparations as that which “corrects” and realizes universal evil. This inclusion enables yet another vehicle for the African-adjacent to look away from black people as the nucleus of this nation. This inclusion once again casts the black experience as that which issues monetary benefit to the African-adjacent at the expense of black collective integrity.
Moreover, while it is beneficial for the African-adjacent to forget our ever-present past, it is to the detriment of our ancestors, the unborn, and ourselves to align our ancestral architects with those who live comfortably in a house painted in their blood .
So the phrase “my black is brown” acknowledges what was as conducive to what is.
To say my black is brown counters white-settler mythos that “immigrants built the country,” or, that “we are all immigrants.” Conversely, to say “my black is brown” is to proclaim “I am not your immigrant,” and to refuse to ignore the countless shades of brown that comprise our genealogy to align with racist compartmentalizations of the term “black.”
Furthermore, my black is brown.