Browning businessSunday, September 09, 2018
That thou that art blamed
Shall not be thy defect;
For slander's mark was every yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect.
— Shakespeare, Sonnet 70
The ornament of beauty is suspect. Wow, that's heavy. Beauty is only skin-deep, it has been said. But what if that skin is brown, does that make it more beautiful? In some cultures that seems to be the preference of many people, and the belief is that the “browning” gets a free pass as far as beauty goes.
What is a browning though? It's the term used to describe someone, usually a woman, who is negro by race, but fair-skinned, brown, light complexion, bronzed, tanned, and not darker than a brown paper bag. In the old days they used to be referred to as mulatto, quadroon or quarteron, and in England they were referred to as half-caste. In old Jamaica they were called Red Ibo because they resembled the Ibo tribe of Nigeria who were light brown as opposed to the other black Africans.
Some areas of Jamaica had a high density of browning, mixed race people, notably St Elizabeth, German Town, and Port Royal. This was due to the heavy preponderance of white people who settled in those areas and cohabited with the locals. German Town got the name from the German settlers, and Port Royal had a heavy influx of sailors who dropped more than anchors in that town.
But there's more to the browning than meets the eye, as we'll find out right after these responses to 'Men need sex'.
The few words I read of your article seem to indicate that men need to have sex at all times and at all costs and will have sex with anything. He has no control; he will then rape, and it is justified. He will impregnate women with no means or desire to stand up and be a father to the innocent child. A vast proportion of the population lives behind zinc fences because 'men need sex'. We are where we are in Jamaica for that reason.
I believe that men and women were put on this planet to populate the Earth. To accomplish this feat, men and women are wired differently. Women have their monthly penance of pain, while men have the constant urge to procreate. If only women would understand and accommodate this concept, men would not have to penetrate pumpkins, potatoes and any other orifice. There is a reason prostitution is the world's oldest profession.
It was Buju Banton who sang, “Mi love me car mi love mi bike mi love mi money an' ting, but most of all mi love me browning.” Those lyrics created such a stir that he wrote a counter in praise of black women. 'We nuh stop cry fi all black woman, big up all di girls dem with dark complexion.” Was that an apology to dark-skinned women, some may ask?
Back in the sixties in the USA, the phrase used to be, “If you're white you're all right. If you're black, step back. But if you're brown, stick around.” That, of course, was fuelled by the racial overtones and race problems in that country. It's awful what people of different ethnicity had to endure and still do.
Jamaica had no such problem, yet the browning effect is still pervasive. Brownings are sometimes held in higher esteem than people of different hues. And it's not a race thing ether, for men who prefer brown women would never choose a Caucasian, Chinese, Indian or any other woman to be in a relationship with. “Strickly browning me a defend, nutten else.”
There's something about the brown skin that attracts him, perhaps in the same way some men prefer fat, slim, tall or short women. Unfortunately though, this has led to many people bleaching their skin to appear brown. Most of this results in terrible discolouration, giving the appearance of a skinned lizard or a molting snake.
But you can't tell them that, for in their eyes they are beautiful, for they are brown. The ornament of beauty is suspect.
The women all aspire to have “beautiful brown babies”, so they cohabit with light-skinned men to “put a little cream in the coffee”, as they put it. Nature has its own agenda though, and sometimes the children don't come out as what's on the parents' wish list.
One child may be born brown, while the other is dark, raising eyebrows and causing problems, as the father may suspect paternity irregularity and yell 'Jacket!' “That's not my pickney come out black suh.” Sometimes the mother may even curse the darker child, “Look how you black and ugly like yu father.”
That's so weird, using your own race to curse. “Black and ugly.” Have you ever heard white and ugly, brown and ugly, Chinese and ugly? But I guess it falls in the same vein as blacklist, blackmail, blackball and other negative connotations.
The irony is, even some white people want to be brown, as they spend hours in the sun getting tanned, or in tanning machines, spending millions of dollars in the process. But don't think for one moment that it's all fun and games for the browning. There are many sides to that story and more than one way to skin that brown cat.
There are down sides to being a browning, as I learnt from those who felt it. For one, a browning dare not criticise or berate anyone for bleaching their skin, for the backlash will be swift and severe. “You can stay deh chat, is just because you brown why you can tell me not to bleach.”
“True you brown yu think say yu nice?”
I have heard tales of young brownings in high school who endured hell, as they got a hard time from their peers simply because of their brown skin. This high school brown girl told me how difficult her life was in school and gave me examples.
Once she was trying to study and some other girls were making so much noise that she found it impossible. She quietly asked them to tone it down, and their response was swift and savage, “Is just true you brown and have pretty eye why yu a chat to we suh. Move and go way!”
On the streets brownings are harassed far more than any other women, so it's a constant struggle just to go out in public. “Psst, brown girl, mi love you.” Yes, brownings are vilified too, in a weird sort of skin-reversal syndrome.
“Hey brown gyal, yu tink say yu reach?”
“Red gyal, yu nuh betta dan me yu nuh.”
Even folk songs have been made about brownings:
“Brown skin gal stay home and mind baby.”
“There's a brown girl in the ring, tralalalala.”
True, brown-skinned people seemed to have gotten a pass in our history, starting perhaps with the progeny of the slavemasters having privilege to live in the great house while their dark-skinned siblings sweated in the field.
This continued into the modern-day workplace, where brownings were put on the front page in positions like bank tellers, receptionists, hotel front desk staff, and such. Somehow brownings held prominent positions in commerce and society.
Our beauty contests often reflected this, for even though our population is 90 per cent black our beauty queens were mostly brown, with some stunning exceptions including our third placed finalist Davina Bennett in last year's Miss Universe contest. Who can forget the beautiful Joan McDonald of yesteryear or Patsy Yuen, who was Chinese, and of course former Miss World Lisa Hanna.
Are brown men sought after as much as brown women? Are they too called browning, or just red man or brown man? Brown men don't get the same props as brown women, except maybe to put a little milk in the coffee.
The fact is, we are out of many one people, as our motto says. white, black, Chinese, Indian, Syrian, Asian, mulatto, but the browning causes the most controversy. Browning business is everybody's business. More time.
Footnote: Calabar High School has taken a bold stance in not allowing boys who have less than a 60 per cent average to enter fifth form. This has been met with both praise and condemnation by different factions. The principal went at length to explain that the school has to set standards, and that much effort was made to assist these boys before the final decision was taken. Some of the boys have an average of 35 per cent.
Back in my days at Kingston College boys who weren't up to snuff were either made to repeat or placed in a special remedial form. It's a tough call, for we cannot lower the bar and allow students to simply take up space. On the other hand, to be expelled while in fourth form is also a problem for society. I would recommend a special remedial form, then no more chances after that. Some boys really waste time.
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