When Julia Davis's grandson asked her if her brown skin made her sad, Davis (after the shock wore off) was inspired to write a book about her pride in her brown-skinned forebears. When culture seems to degrade or devalue those with brown skin, all of us, children especially, need reminders of the great people of the past and present who have brown skin and to whom we can look as role models.
Davis goes all the way back to Africa, describing the accomplishments and culture of Africans before Europeans colonized their lands and enslaved their people. She tells of the strength of black people who suffered under slavery, and the bravery of those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. She describes the accomplishments of black war heroes, inventors, entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, politicians, engineers, and more.
With each chapter, she concludes with an admonition to the readers to look to what these people accomplished and an encouragement to follow their lead. She writes, "No matter what negative comments others make about you, don't let their thinking stop you from reaching your goals and your full potential."
I love her positive attitude and the constant refrain that black people don't have to let unjust laws, societal pressure, racist attitudes, and the like keep them from living their lives well. She acknowledges what many perceive as current reality: "'White privilege' still exists in most American institutions." In my opinion she takes this a little too far (She says we live in "a nation that preaches equal opportunity for all, while practicing a policy of white privilege and black suppression.") She's correct that suppression and restrictions in the past have lasting effects today, in terms of family wealth, education, and geography. My own experience, and the experience of many of the contemporary African-Americans she profiles in the book, tell me white privilege is on the way out.
I Like My Brown Skin . . . will inspire young readers (old ones, too!) and instill an appreciation for the hard work, sacrifices, and accomplishments of black people throughout American history. It's a hall of heroes; pick your role model. Hopefully Ms. Davis's grandson, and kids of all ages with brown skin, can join her in saying, "I like my brown skin!"
(I do have to add one thing, concerning her admiration for Obama. I know it's historically significant that he is the first African-American president. But her praise of him was really over the top. I laughed out loud when she called him "a brilliant African-American constitutional scholar." Sure, he taught some classes at the University of Chicago law school, but he has never published any scholarly articles, on the Constitution or anything else. This is one of many reasons I believe Obama was judged and elected based on his color not on his character or qualifications. And before you accuse me of "resent[ing] his occupation of that office due to the color of his skin," just know that no matter his race, I don't like his politics and policies. All of this is to say, after reading about the heroic, accomplished African Americans in I Like My Brown Skin Because . . ., I understand you have to include Obama because of his historical place, but the hagiography and skewed accounting of his record as president tainted the presentation.)
OK, political rant over. It's a great book! Buy it for your kids!
visit the Epps-Alford web site.