A Question of Color

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

I remember as a kid, one day I asked my mother, “Why am I brown?” I think I had asked the question after we had returned home from the grocery store one day.

A QUESTION OF COLOR
By Al Garcia

I remember as a kid, one day I asked my mother, “Why am I brown?”  I think I had asked the question after we had returned home from the grocery store one day. 

At that time, going to the grocery store was a big deal.  Grocery shopping was the biggest event of the week – usually a Saturday.  To go down aisles of brightly-packaged goods and see the beautiful colors and smell the different fragrances and aromas was, for a kid growing up in the Valle in the 1950s, like going to Disneyland.  It was a magical world to a four or five-year old. 

For my parents, grocery shopping back then was just another reminder of the many things they couldn’t afford.  Our shopping basket contained only the basics -- flour, beans, rice, potatoes, some meat at times, fresh grapes when the money allowed, and little else.  The trip to the grocery store was a treat, but it was also a sad experience at times – to see all the things on shelves just sitting there and to just walk by.  I couldn’t understand why we didn’t just fill our basket with everything we wanted and bring them home. 

I remember, even as a child back then, the very first time I ever saw a Black man.  He was sitting outside the grocery store.  He was old and looked very tired, and I just stared.  I remember Mom pulling at my hand to make me stop staring, but I was fascinated.  The man stared back. 

When we got home, and the groceries were unpacked and stored away, I finally asked my Mom, “Why is that man black?”  She picked me up and sat me on chair and sat beside me.  “Well,” she said, “When God was making us, he didn’t know exactly how long to leave us in the oven.  Some people are very white because they’re not completely done.  Some people are black because they’re overdone.  And we’re golden brown because God finally got it right.  Not under done or overdone.  Just right.”  And to me, that explained it all.  The whole issue of color was now a done deal.  I knew exactly why I was brown.  Not the most politically correct explanation on the issue of race, but a mother’s simple explanation to an inquisitive five-year old.

And as I grew older, the issue of race and color got only more complicated.  I began to notice the divisions between the whites, the browns and the blacks here in the Valley.  The divisions were distinctive and wide.  I began to take notice of the have and have-nots.  And in the 1940s and 1950s, the browns and the blacks were the have-nots -- and my golden-brown skin was not perfect any more. 

There was no political correctness in speech, or deeds, or actions back then.  Just the reality of being black, of being brown, or of being just the right color – white.  And it would take a lifetime of living and of growing to come to understand God’s true intention – the creation of a beating heart and a growing soul, inside emotions of every shade and tone. The result is us, the human race -- a monochromatic rainbow of His creation.


Submitted: May 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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