When our editor in chief, Ebony Johnson, first came to me with the idea and concept of this magazine I went to the moon. What an amazing platform she would initiate for our city and beyond to entertain, educate, inform and promote talent. Though we are continuing to grow in our first-year phase of publication, the illumination on the people in our community has already become electric; and yet, the title of the magazine wrinkled a few foreheads and arched a few brows. Melanin. *insert ominous music and thunder* “So white people can’t read it? Don’t you think this is limiting your market? Kind of closed minded, don’t you think? Shouldn’t we be extending this platform to all people? Oh, soit’s like a Black thing?” Whew, chile. So many places to go with this but overall these questions, as most questions do, lead to learning. So often, we hear this country described as a melting pot of cultures; a little of this, a little of that by way of race, culture and ethnicity implying that there is no “face” of an American. Teaching in Prince George’s County, I had to privilege of working in the second richest Black county (yeah, those are a thing) in the country; all of my students were Black and/or Latino.
One day, they were instructed to color in the people in a picture and walking around I noticed one similarity in all 30 of their pictures; no one colored their characters brown. No light brown, dark brown, sepia, tan, burnt sienna. Not a one. All 96 of these crayons Crayola supplied and none of these beautiful melanated babies thought to make the people look like them. It honestly broke my heart. Looking so much at the content of their work, I never noticed that they never colored anyone remotely brown.
Even growing up in an area with people who mostly resembled themselves, their default was white. It really made me think about how important representation is, especially to the youth who are finding themselves and their place in the world. In media and the world around them, how are they portrayed? How do they feel about themselves? While we do in fact live in a country that has many different faces, the faces of color are still unrepresented in so many avenues in which we create and exist. One token brown face may be included in a make-up advertisement, there is a small and familiar paragraph about Cesar Chavez in your history text book and maybe you know of Jackie Chan and Jet Li as famous Asian actors but how much do you see people of color outside of their stereotypical corners? So many of us hear the word melanin and automatically think Black but so many people have this brown
biological pigment; southeast Asians, people of multiple races and/or ethnicity
, Latinos; the list can go on and on. Both our history and present show that colorism continues to be used to make people feel odd or less than. A beautiful movement in many cultures has begun to embrace it as a badge of honor. A lot of people live by the “I don’t see color principal” and while their intent is presumed to be positive, it is dismissive. If you don’t see color, you don’t see millions of different people in this world. Yes, we have many similarities as a human race, but the fact is, we’re quite different. At base level, we look different. With that physical difference comes different ways of being, beliefs, experiences, temperaments, thought patterns. Culture goes beyond holidays, food and historical figures. The key is not to ignore or not see our differences but to acknowledge and learn from them so we can truly understand one another. You cannot truly respect what you don’t understand. It is difficult for those in the majority to understand what it feels like to be this alienated because they are so used to seeing themselves everywhere. Ever notice that apparel labeled as nude is always beige? Thus, we see the recoil effect take place when spaces intentionally acknowledge themselves as a safe place for people of color. It is not necessarily done to say that White people or anyone else cannot come, but that the space is a haven for those people to feel like themselves and a part of something. Is it not more alarming that these kinds of spaces still need to be created in such a diverse world? Having pride in oneself and your culture is in no way diminishing the value in another. It is a fact that within this melting pot, there are so many marginalized groups of people who rarely get the notoriety and proper representation they deserve. Ironically, you would be hard pressed to find an avenue of society that someone of color has not created or contributed to. We are innovators. We are a voice. Our voices deserve to be heard. Those faces deserve to be seen. Those stories deserve to be told. We at Everyday Melanin will continue working to empower those people and empower others to follow in those footsteps so we can continue cultivating a culture of game changers.