When Brown Sugar Sweetens by Sal Ramirez

As a young brown kid coming up in America, it’s hard not to let the sweetness within me spoil. I learned from very early on that in order to make a name for yourself, you have to have thick skin—weathered and tough. I’m talking about skin that withstands whitening creams, razor blades and a sensible dose of icy shade from conservatives—but that’s just baseline as you already know. What’s tricky about coping with all of this is the added pressure of being a brown queer boi; a topic not frequently talked about, but something you’ll often only see fetishized in an interracial gay porn flick. And now, add to that being a politicized brown boi, well now everyone is thinking oh lawd run for the hills, right? 


In a time when it feels like we are all staring into empty swimming pools and living at the cigarette butt of a post-racial/post-gay/post-post civilization, I just have to ask: When will society self-correct if no one calls it out? 

I really hate that pregunta to be honest. I mean, really. It’s just that, the deafening silence of that question curdles inside of me whenever I hear it in my head. You see. It feels like it’s just an externality of knowing too much; knowing that we are allowing other people to paint our history with blood by bordering it within the confines of a [hetero] Eurocentric ideal (one in which we exist in a broader worldwide vanilla framework where whiteness is valued around the world), and it’s knowing that on this brown earth beneath me, skin whitening cream sales keep blowing up in the billions all over the third world while my bois around the globe are bleaching their skin even though it causes cancer, chasing a snow and blow aesthetic that kills. And that’s not even all of it. The all of it is that the sweetness within me wants to melt away knowing that my trans sisters are being raped and murdered for no damn reason. It’s living in a society that tries to feign a smile at me for being open about my sexuality, but then gets secondhand embarrassment when it catches itself wondering whether or not I have AIDS. All of this truly makes me question the principles of collectivity and community.

What does give me hope though is the fact that Michelle Obama is in the White House. I know I know...random right? But think about it. She is not there as a cook or as a maid, but as the First Lady. If Michele can be in the White House and do a fabulous job as First Lady, well then why can’t a gay First Man do the same (or a first gay President, for that matter)? It shows me that in some ways we can begin to heal; that we were never broken, just bent. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but the complicated systems that obscure the damage of our history can’t erase the hope that still lives within us. It cannot take away our sweetness. Ever. 

But, unless we are able to value and articulate the issue, the conversation simply will stay stagnant. And, well, as diametrically uncomfortable as it may feel to recognize, this dialogue is much more effective as an open hand than as a fist. 

Personally, it took a long time for me to understand loving my brown self is not racism, because you can love you without having to hate someone else. I live a very valuable life, and I feel good that I’ve forgiven my teachers that thought I would amount to nothing, knowing that my life is my responsibility. 

And despite knowing there is so much structural power in policy and cultural power in media, we have to remember that until the jaguar has a historian, the hunter will always be the hero. So to those that try and make our brown sugar turn bitter, all I can say is Adios Felicia.




Sal Ramirez is a content producer for Thought Catalog, and is also a California transplant on the East Coast.