‘Brown’ is becoming a more acceptable way for black women to describe themselves and, to some, a contemporary alternative to ‘black’ or ‘African American’.
The #SmartBrownGirl movement was started by popular natural hair and life vlogger Jouelzy. She addressed her choice to name her movement in a blog post earlier this year:
On the topic of why Brown and not Smart Black Girl…which honestly I find to be such a petty and searching for nothing good question. But…I guess. Women of color all over the world are often put down and set down under the same universal tones. And as my world grows, as my preview is exposed to different ways of life, one never knows the possibilities for cross-cultural connections. Most importantly I did not want to get caught up in policing what is “Black.” Growing up I was never Black enough and I didn’t want to give any credence to that argument being made against any of my other #SmartBrownGirls. Whether they are of mixed ethnicity or coming into their own understanding of how they define being a woman of color, this was not to be an argument. I do identify as a Black woman and even amongst peers who look like me, that is a debated topic on how we should identify. African over being Black? black American, Black American, or African American? Igbo, Fulani, or Kikuyu? This is a discussion that can spin on for forever with no landing, so #SmartBrownGirl allows for you to make it what you want, even within how you racially and/or ethnically identify, while casting a net that can expand over time.
Pretty Brown Girls is mainly comprised of African American girls, but describes itself as “a global initiative that encourages girls and women to celebrate the shades of brown all over the world…”
The politics of what African descendants in America should call themselves is ongoing. A 2012 Associated Press article traces the roots of the debate;
“In Latin, a forerunner of the English language, the color black is “niger.” In 1619, the first African captives in America were described as “negars,” which became the epithet still used by some today.
The Spanish word “negro” means black. That was the label applied by white Americans for centuries.
The word black also was given many pejorative connotations – a black mood, a blackened reputation, a black heart. “Colored” seemed better, until the civil rights movement insisted on Negro, with a capital N.
Then, in the 1960s, “black” came back – as an expression of pride, a strategy to defy oppression.
“Every time black had been mentioned since slavery, it was bad,” says Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania history professor and former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Reclaiming the word “was a grass-roots move, and it was oppositional. It was like, ‘In your face.’ ”
Afro-American was briefly in vogue in the 1970s, and lingers today in the names of some newspapers and university departments. But it was soon overshadowed by African-American, which first sprouted among the black intelligentsia.”
So what do you think ladies? Speaking objectively black people are very much ‘brown’. Our skin can range from the deepest ebony to the lightest beige.
On the other hand, the word ‘black’ has a lot of cultural weight and meaning, even though it is descriptively inaccurate.
What are your thoughts?