September 03, 2010

Just a Quick Comment on “Doing My Part”

I was at Trader Joe's the other day with my son, Kamari, when a staff person (a 20-something, bi-racial woman) came over to help pack up my groceries. Since they were almost already packed up, the cashier looked at her as if to say, thanks but we don’t need your help. She looked at him, threw some items in a bag, and then said to me: “I just came over to see the brown baby.” She followed it up with, “Are you doing your part to keep Portland brown?”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought her comment was funny…and odd…and clearly one I had not heard before. I replied that in fact I was, and that I had an even browner child at home. She laughed and offered to help me out with my groceries. Meanwhile, the cashier just stood there looking at us both like we were nuts.

Had she been white, I think I might have been offended by the comment. Or at least, confused. But, I suppose she felt she had the right to be so brazen with her comment because she and my son have about the same skin color. I don’t know. And perhaps on a different day, I would have been taken aback.

As it happened, on that day, coming from her nonchalant, no-nonsense mouth, I found it humorous. Maybe I found the comment amusing because in our family, we don’t refer to ourselves as black or white. My daughter and I talk about skin color often and we describe Ava as “latte colored,” mommy (me) as “the color of milk,” daddy is “cream colored” and Kamari is “caramel colored.”

In any case, I think I’ll make myself a t-shirt that says, “Doing my part to keep Portland brown.” Ha!