Hair is not a race! Hair is not ethnic!

Hair is not a race! Hair is not ethnic! All people have ethnicity! Beauty belongs to everyone!

There is no black hair, white hair, good hair or bad hair. And there is no such thing as ethnic hair or ethnic beauty! The beauty aisles divide us along imaginary lines conceived by an ideology meant to divide, confuse and conquer us. But our hair refuses to cooperate. Our hair is just hair and wants what it needs. Our hair doesn’t  give any consideration to socially and politically constructed racial categories or the beauty industry’s narrow beauty ideals.

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Target and Walmart have not invited me to rearrange their BEAUTY aisles. The beauty industry failed to consult with me about marketing strategies for promoting inclusive beauty attributes. If they had, I would have advised them to reframe from arranging beauty products in a way that is meaningless to our beauty and perpetuates misinformation. Instead, hair products, for example, should be arranged based on hair itself and not the ethnic background of the head its on.

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So here we go  again…changing the narratives we’ve been told in order to equip and empower our children to know and do better than we did. In honor of Loving Day (June 12),  Brownicity hosted Breaking Beauty Barriers! What a perfect day to defy laws of oppression! Moms came with their children, a host of hair products and a multitude of questions. We detangled and combed through twisted race-based hair myths and misinformation. We locked in on our hair types, hair porosity, and regimens. We cleansed our perspectives and conditioned our minds for a beauty paradigm shift.

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Debi, brought her mom and her six year old daughter with her in hopes of demystifying three generations of hair care anxiety. You see, race-based beauty marketing and sales told Debi that she had ‘black’ hair–not the color, the race. Even the sales associate at the beauty supply store told Debi she had ‘black’ hair and then handed her a bunch of ‘black’ hair-care products. Debi’s mom had long given up on figuring out her own hair and masked her hair anxiety with a wig. In a way, many of the moms there could relate to Debi and her mom.  And we no longer wanted to mask our confusion—not just for our sake, but for the sake of our children.

We want to raise children who are secure about their features and whose beauty ideals will not be categorized, defined and labeled by the beauty industry’s use of race-based marketing—which is especially counter-intuitive for multi-ethnic families. We want our children to appreciate and nurture the hair they are fortunate to have. And when they bring home friends whose hair is different, we parents won’t be stifled by a hair care regimen that differs from our’s. And as always with Brownicity, we want to equip and empower our children so that they know better and do better than our generation did.

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In the grand scheme of radically rejecting centuries old race-related ideals, hosting a ‘hair play date’ may seem superficial and trivial. But socially and culturally, hair makes a significant statement. Hair is an expression of identity—what we believe about ourselves. So, talking about hair served nicely as a common sacred space from which to expand our knowledge and break a few barriers. We let our hair down. We exposed our anxieties. We were vulnerable. We were real. We took our proverbial wigs off. We got a lot of joy and fulfillment out of breaking down walls that never should have been erected.

Debi’s mom left ‘Breaking Beauty Barriers’ with her wig off, hair exposed and free to do whatever. Debi abandoned the limited hair definitions she’d been given along with the products that went with them. Afterwards, Debi texted this

You helped 3 generations of my family with knowledge…Thanks for disabusing me of bad information 🙂 Hair ignorance is a burden but knowledge is power

We were all disabused, at least, of the notion that we are so irreconcilably different from each other—that our beauty can be categorized and subcategorized.  We gathered to be set free from lack of knowledge and bad information—one of the many legacies of race and the subsequent bi-product of race-based marketing and beauty industry ideals. It may take a while before the beauty industry reframes from dividing products into ‘beauty’ and ‘ethnic.’ But until then, we can disrupt and rearrange the beauty narrative within. Our children will be so glad we did.

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#WOKE

We finished our first 21-Day Race Ideology Detox. People gathered each Wednesday for a month to primarily not talk about race, but to actually learn about race and view this socio-political construct through the lens of faith. Two churches from different denominations came together to host the weekly meetings. You can read more about the churches and why they hosted the detox, here.

During the very first meeting, I could feel the tension and discomfort in the room as participants ‘held their breath’ in anticipation of the much dreaded rigid dichotomous  ‘race conversation.’ By the fourth and final session, I could sense the empowerment, unity and hope in the atmosphere. The heaviness and hopelessness was gone as participants had accepted the challenge to see race differently and become grace-filled spaces for healing and change.

Overall, participants were transformed by the process. One of the pastors wrote, “I was enlightened, challenged and encouraged.”  As the facilitator, I observed the paradigm shift that occurred as participants replaced their perspectives once only fed by divisive politics, colorblindness, uninformed opinions and miseducation with a more ‘unity, freedom and justice’ centered approach to the race conversation. 

One of the detox participants, Tiffany Trudewind, a wife and mom of four young children, chronicled her journey and transformation through her painting and a poem she wrote.

Painting by Tiffany Trudewind illustrates her tranformation to #woke.
Painting by Tiffany Trudewind illustrates her tranformation to #woke.

#Woke

by Tiffany Trudewind (April 2016)
As I struggle each day for my identity
Am I simply a mother, wife, churchgoer, consumer?
Am I someone who really makes a difference
Or will my daily routine become all that I will amount to?

 

Then I woke to realize that I was fighting to identify
With a role in a society that judged me only by what I produced
That I was trying to blend in with something
That wanted to swallow me whole instead.

 

Then as the scales of perpetual blindness fell,
I realized who I really was,
I am a voice!

 

I am a whisper in my children’s ears of how special they are,
I am the encouraging word for my husband after a long day,
I am the prayer for a friend who is struggling,
I am a voice!!

 

I have the power of words to lift up the weak or grind them to the dirt
To spew hatred like knives or heal wounds as sweet water
Like shifting plates under the earth’s crust
My words can gain enough momentum to cause an earthquake

 

And as this new identity began to wash over me,
My eyes were opened to its full reaching magnitude.
I am a child of God so I am His voice too!!
And when I realized my power I understood the importance of my influence.

 

But I reflected and realized there were times I had shied away from this power.
I had chosen to stay silent when injustice had happened around me
I had chosen to fade into the backdrop because I believed my voice didn’t matter.
I had chosen for my voice to not exist therefore I did not exist.

 

And with a bubble of fire from a place that God had built deep in my belly I said
I will not be silent any more!
I cannot stand by and pretend it will go away on its own
I was made to be a voice of God’s love in the face of fear and hate

 

So if you ask me now who I am I will say
I am an advocate against injustice
I am God’s word spoken aloud
I am a voice that is no longer asleep
I woke up

Tiffany’s relentless pursuit of transformation is extremely motivating and encouraging. She has taken on the burden of seeking and finding the truth and in the process is becoming free—free to free her family, free to free her community. Our goal is to help set people free from the ignorance and fear that holds us captive and prohibits us from walking in the unity and oneness for which Jesus prayed.

 

 

 

 

National Nanny Training Day Conference: When children have questions about skin tone, how will you respond?

presented by Lucretia Berry.

National Nanny Training Day
National Nanny Training Day Conference

‘Why is your skin a different color than mine?’

‘My skin is not white/black, why is it called white/black?’

What are some of the skin tone or race related questions that you’ve been asked by a child? One summer I was collecting data in an Appalachian preschool where everyone was white. A sweet little boy walked up to me and asked me why my legs were brown. I could sense that his question made the adults uncomfortable, but I thought that he and his question were adorable. How would you have answered his question?

Addressing the toddler was easy. It was the discomfort of the adults that caught me off guard. Why were the adults uncomfortable with his question? Because they were more than likely taught to be colorblind. Colorblindness is the notion that If we say we don’t see skin color or talk about it, racism will go away and that the person who mentions skin tone or race is racist. I guess colorblindness sounds good in theory, but not only did it make us an empty promise, it left us void of the language and ability to have seemingly simple conversations with children.

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You shouldn’t avoid talking with children about skin tone and race. Research shows that because children are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism, shunning conversations about race and skin tone will not produce the desired ‘everyone is equal’ mindset.

Having conversations about skin tone void of shame and discomfort in their early years empowers children with the right language and foundation for engaging in more complex conversations about race when the opportunity presents itself.

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Here are some ways to talk with children about skin tone and race. When children talk about skin being brown, peach, pink, etc., they are simply noticing the obvious. The observation of skin tone is not inherently connected to the social, political construct of race. So, when children have questions about skin tone, we don’t need to launch into a civil rights speech right away.

Here is how it plays out in our home. Our family is multi-ethnic—white dad, black mom, and three little girls, currently ranging in ages from four to eight. Because the race concept is complex and confusing (for adults to understand, let alone children) we gave ourselves a language and narrative to acknowledge our five different skin tones (and five different hair textures) without using race terminology like ‘white’ and ‘black.’  Starting from when our oldest was a preschooler, here’s a little of what we do.

  1. We talk about ‘melanin’. Melanin is why our skin tones are different ‘hues of brown.’ Mommy has more or darker melanin. Daddy has lighter or less. We use fun descriptors for our skin tone like ‘sugar cookie, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate.’ We make up songs about our different skin tones and we celebrate them!  (SIDE BAR: We talk about our hair in terms of various degrees, ranging from dad’s super straight hair to mommy’s infinitely kinky curly hair. There is no ‘white hair, black hair or ethnic hair.)
  2. We talk about geography and ancestry. Our children’s ancestors who lived closer to the equator have darker melanin and their ancestors who lived further away from the equator have lighter melanin. Having ancestors from Italy, Germany and Africa has contributed to our beautiful ‘hues of brown.’ 
  3. We talk about the history of race/ism. Around seven years of age, our oldest daughter understood the concept of race. We explained that around 400 years ago, someone divided people by skin color in order to give white people advantages by taking away opportunities for people of color. She read non-fiction children’s books, like Who Was Abraham Lincoln, Meet Addy: An American Girl, Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr., and learned of the atrocities and consequences of racism. As you can imagine, racism upsets children (as it should), so we also talk a lot about hope for the future. If we are educated about race/ism and passionate about change, we can create a better world!     

In children, we have the opportunity to cultivate a future overflowing with love, justice, peace, unity and fun. Telling the truth about skin tone and race/ism will only equip and empower them to help get us there. 

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Related Resources

Your Children See Color—and It’s Beautiful! Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About It. Online: For Every Mom. Lucretia Berry (2016)

Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better off or worse? Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. Bronson & Merryman. (2009) Here is a summary.

Introducing our 21-Day Race Ideology Detox!

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We reformatted our initial Brown-tables sessions into twenty-one days of awakening, reflective thinking and growing our capacity to foster healing and change.

For the month of April, Independence Hill Baptist Church along with Jonahville AME Zion Church will be hosting the detox! To participate, join us each Wednesday at 6:15pm at IHBC. Childcare is provided! Please feel free to join us.

We are awakening to our collective creative power to heal and change the world. The world will shift quickly when we walk as the light-bearers we were created to be. This requires us to lead the way in dark areas where naturally no one likes to venture. Race/ism is one such area. We’ve been taught that if we don’t talk about race and say we don’t see color, racism will go away. Instead this ‘colorblind’ approach has left us void of language and power to confront the darkness of racism as it has continued to divide and conquer us—even in our sacred spaces, like the church.

Race/ism is an American invention that affects how we think about virtually every aspect of our society and culture—and yet we struggle to talk about or even define it. We can be part of the solution for racial healing. We can be the light that drives out the darkness. However, as we seek to transform the world, we must first allow ourselves to be transformed.

The Apostle Paul told the Romans, 

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. (Romans 12:2)

Likewise, we need to be aware of how we have adopted a worldly ideology that seems to have a stronger influence in and over our lives than our faith. To be a part of the solution for racial healing, we need to understand race/sim and how it has controlled our lives and thoughts—most often without us even recognizing it.

The 21-Day Race Ideology Detox will help us see the evil stronghold that has defiled our unity with each other and left us too fearful to confront it. It will bring awareness and understanding. It will prompt us to challenge our thoughts and actions that have contradicted our faith without us realizing it. It will help us unite against the force that has divided us. It will serve as a foundation for further and deeper healing and exploration. This detox will equip and empower us to talk about race/ism, so that we can address and eradicate it.Resources

During the detox, we will

  1. watch RACE-The Power of an Illusion, a series which investigates race in society, science and history;
  2. answer a series of *reflective questions that help awaken us to our thoughts and actions—conscious and subconscious—related to race; 
  3. and engage in guided activities and discussions facilitated by Team Brownicity.

*The reflective questions encourage you to renew your mind. The model is borrowed from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s program for overcoming toxic thinking.

Race ideology and our faith are at odds. Often our thoughts that are unconsciously driven by race-associated-fear override our faith. Because we are unaware of this non-conscious association, without thinking, we act out of fear instead of love. We act against love! But as Dr. Leaf reminds us, we can change our thinking. We can uproot the beliefs that have been planted into our thinking by race ideology. We can renew our minds!

If you have questions, please contact Independence Hill Baptist Church or us

 

 

I’m Not Racist…Am I? review & reflections

by Lucretia Carter Berry

I’m Not Racist!…Am I? is a feature documentary about how this next generation is going to confront racism. The film’s unique focus on kids and family immediately grabbed our attention. So a few of us Brownicity moms moved heaven and earth to attend the screening at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC.

With film maker, Andre Robert Lett
With film maker, Andre Robert Lee

Through the documentary, we followed twelve New York City teens on a year long journey getting to the heart of racism. We watched as these kids were challenged within themselves, their friendships and families. We watched as they had conversations that most adults are too afraid to have. We watched as these remarkable young people navigated through naiveté, guilt and a few tears to develop deeper bonds, a stronger resolve and a truer definition of racism.

Their collective navigation was made both complicated and beautiful by the mosaic of their individual stories. After the film, we moms talked about with whom of the twelve we most identified.

Personally, as a black woman, I could identify with Kahleek, who through involvement in the project, was relieved and excited to gain a framework and language for articulating how institutional and structural racism had played out in his life.

But as a mom, I was most impacted by Abby, who is multiethnic (bi-racial) like my children. Unlike our family, Abby’s parents had not talked about race with her. As Abby is empowered by her involvement in the project, we watch her have a weighty and convicting conversation with her father, telling him, “If we would have talked about it as a family, I would have been more comfortable.” Can you say ‘Brownicity Soap Box Moment?’

It is empowering to see and understand the forces in your life that work independently of your own abilities, talents, and will. It is even more empowering to be given the permission to deconstruct and dismantle these forces. Brownicity exists to help families do this.

Watching these kids take this journey will inspire adults to do the same. See the website for how to access I’m Not Racist!…Am I? This film is an invaluable tool for families and communities.

The film is part of a larger initiative – Deconstructing Race – developed by The Calhoun School to create a multimedia platform to get young people, their teachers and their families talking – and doing something – about structural systemic racism. (http://notracistmovie.com/)