"More," said my son as I listed as many "brown" people as I could think of. Grammy, Pappa, Aunties (including one adopted from India), his day care provider, a boy he likes to play with on our street. His thirst for knowing who in his world is "brown like me" was not quenched. I had to lengthen the list. It was another day in the life of parenting in the face of the politics of race.
If raising a child who loves the skin he lives in were not challenging enough, I've been tasked with raising a brown boy. As a former brown boy, I know a little something about the waters he will have to navigate. At least part of that will involve figuring out what it means to be black and male in a world where our humanity remains an open question to some. Something I pray I can help my son resist is the cultural myopia of hyper-masculine posturing and reflexive mysogyni that too many black men embrace as their answer to white supremacist patriarchy. He will need to reach adulthood with a consciousness of the spiritual, cultural, social, and political demands of a world where the equality of women and men must become a way of life. As 'Abdul-Baha (1844-1921), Head of the Baha'i Faith from 1892 to 1921, explained:
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.
One way that I can address both the raced and gendered dimensions of my son's development is to provide positive images of "brown" girls and women. For example, the New York Times recently featured a story about 'Doc McStuffins,' starring a black girl who provides medical care to her toys (her mom is a doctor too!). It is gratifying to see that my son is as excited about her as he is about Diego rescuing animals. Something else he might find interesting is a blogger's recent re-imaging of Disney Princesses as women of color. Of course the Olympics have offered a real life lesson in the power of brown girls in Gabby Douglas. Given my son's near perfect dismount from parent's bed to the floor, he may find footage of her particularly inspiring.