The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 28

Cara Sinicropi

I Remember Being Brown

I remember being Brown. Being seven and in my grandmother’s pool as she yelled at my mother, “Get those kids out of the sun. Someone is going to think they’re Mexican.”

I remember the look on my mother’s face—the shock and the hurt, and hurt of the shock—the frustrated biting of her tongue, quelling her temper to protect against the slur thrown at her children, at her.

This was not the first time someone had chastised the color of my skin. Schoolmates marveled at my tan, strangers cooed the word exotic, and boys fetishized the deep burnt Brown of my calves and thighs.

I spent years of my life hiding from the sun, begging the melanin of my skin to stay an acceptable, European olive, and shirking my mother’s request to braid my hair. I cut it off when she asked too much. I would claw at my arms, my stomach, until my skin was angry and raw. I tried to peel away the pelleted definition—White or Red or Brown or Yellow. I tried to scrap the question of what instead of who from my skin.

(In later years, I would spend hours and hours bathing in the sun, forgoing my fears, and reveling in the deep Brown tones of my skin, my inability to burn.)

I remember being Brown and 15 when I saw a commercial for Cotex tampons. A young woman with olive skin and dark hair spoke to me from a soapbox of equality, in a wiggle dress. “You can relate to me because I’m racially ambiguous.”

I felt kinship in her scripted dialogue, in my chameleon-like ability to pass as I saw fit. I felt identity in her declarative lack thereof, in my own racially ambiguous skin. I did not yet understand the weight the color of my skin carried. I did not under-