I am brown. Undeniably brown. When I think of my brown skin, I think of coffee grounds, amber coals, and adobe. When I was 10, my brown skin made me think of dirt. I hated my skin. And I was dark too.
My idolization of whiteness started at the age of 7 when I moved from Los Angeles to the suburbs. Brown hues disappeared from my landscape. I was surrounded by translucent complexions. Because I could not dilute my brownness to match the transparency of those around me, I felt more ostracized as a Mexicana girl than I should have at the age of 10. With the decreasing validation I received, I became increasingly complicit in the social structures that made Eurocentric beauty the unachievable standard for people of color.
Pale, blonde friends with blue eyes as deep as the ocean(the friends I had). The inescapable fact that I was brown-haired and brown-eyed and Latina (the reality I hid). I told people I was Hawaiian, French, Spanish, anything but Mexican because even at the age of 10 I understood the stereotypes associated with my ethnicity. I tried to blend in with my friends but my efforts were as tiresome and ineffectual as trying to cover up brown crayon with white crayon.
Desperate, useless scribbles.
At a certain point, you get tired of conspiring against yourself. Of lying to yourself in every breathe, in every cover-up. With every act of conformity, the isolation becomes more unbearable. You give up your self-encompassed isolation. You refuse your own loathing because it's not just your brownness- it's the brownness you share with every person of Sierra Nevada shade. Your brownness can't be defined by your skin alone. It's the skin and soul of each indigenous, of each marginalized, of each oppressed person of color.
Brown is still dirt to me. But dirt is not the discardable filth I once saw it as. Dirt is the soil on which life grows; it is the brown my mother dug through to plant her hibiscus trees with her softly soiled gloves; it is the brown that held puddles to splash through in my rubber rainboots; it is the brown under the greened ground for foot races I had with the boys in my grade during recess; it is the perfect ingredient for mud pies. ✉
article by: victoria barrios
visual by: victoria barrios (@victoriabarriosphotography), models are frida & marie cruz