Perhaps the saddest experience for me, and the one that prompted me to write this book, occurred a few months ago. It was a bright November morning when my 4-year-old grandson, John Christian, and I left a going-out-of-business sale at a major discount store. I had purchased shirts for the pre-school youngster, and a book that would help him with sounds and word parts for reading. When I told him he could select one toy that costs less than $10, he chose a dinosaur with a plastic skeleton and rubber skin that could be removed to show the skeleton. This child was really into dinosaurs and he was happy to have his new Para-sau-rol-ophus. With much excitement, he told me what dinosaurs ate, and how they became extinct. As we were leaving the store, he showed me how dinosaurs walked.
On the way home, John Christian was securely locked in his car seat, taking off the skin of the dinosaur and putting it back on. I was thinking about making soup and sandwiches for lunch. I looked into the rearview mirror and saw him holding the dinosaur. Our eyes met and I smiled at him. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, he said, “Gram, does your brown skin ever make you sad? Why are we brown? Why do you like your brown skin so much?” His words upset me greatly, and I knew he needed fortification for the world in which we live.
I am a product of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. I have books and pictures of famous African Americans all over our house, and similar books and pictures are at his house. I had no idea these thoughts were in his mind.
“My Precious Child,” I said, “I love my brown skin, and I love your brown skin. Granddaddy loves his brown skin and Mommy loves her brown skin. Your uncles, aunts, and cousins love their brown skin. We will talk more about this when we get home. Traffic is heavy right now and I need to concentrate on driving. Let’s listen to your Christmas music while we drive. I love you and I love your brown skin.”
While John Christian was taking his afternoon nap, I started jotting down reasons for liking my brown skin. I decided to put these reasons into a story for him, his cousins, and their friends of all colors. I Like My Brown Skin Because… is the text of my story.