Brown (racial classification)
In the age of scientific racism
In the 18th and 19th century, European and American writers proposed geographically based "scientific" differences among "the races." Many of these racial models assigned colors to the groups described, and some included a "brown race" as in the following:
- In the late 18th century, German anthropologist Johann Blumenbach extended Linnaeus's four-color race model by adding the brown race, "Malay race", which included both the Malay division of Austronesian (Southern-Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Pattani, Sumatra, Madagascar, Formosans, etc.) and Polynesians and Melanesians of Pacific Islands, as well as Papuans and Aborigines of Australia.
- In 1775, "John Hunter of Edinburg included under the label light brown, Southern Europeans, Italians, the Spanish, Persians, Turks and Laplanders, under the label brown."
- Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy's five-race scheme differed from Blumenbach's by including Ethiopians in the brown race, as well as Oceanic peoples. Louis Figuier adopted and adapted d'Omalius d'Halloy's classification and also included Egyptians in the brown race.
- In 1915, Donald Mackenzie conceived a "Mediterranean or Brown race, the eastern branch of which reaches to India and the western to the British Isles... [and includes] predynastic Egyptians... [and some populations of] Neolithic man".
- Eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard in his The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920) mapped a "brown race" as native to North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Caucasus, the Near East, Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Austronesia (Malay race). Stoddard's "brown" is one of five "primary races", contrasting with "white", "black", "yellow" and "Amerindian".
- Due to what he considered the relatively close physical relationship between many populations "from the Red Sea as far as India, including Semites as well as Hamites", Grafton Elliot Smith conceived the Brown Race as a natural extension of Giuseppe Sergi's earlier Mediterranean race concept. In this popular conception, the Brown Race consisted of a joint "Mediterranean-Hamite-Semite" grouping of ancestrally related peoples, into which Elliot Smith included the Proto-Egyptians.
These and other race theories have been dismissed scientifically. As a 2012 human biology textbook observes, "These claims of race-based taxonomy, including [Carleton] Coon's claims for homo-sapienation, have been discredited by paleontological and genomic research showing the antiquity of modern human origins, as well as the essential genomic African nature of all living human beings."
In the 19th century, the notion of a single "brown people" was sometimes superseded by multiple "brown peoples." Cust mentions Grammar in 1852 denying that there was one single "brown race", but in fact, several races speaking distinct languages. The 1858 Cyclopaedia of India and of eastern and southern Asia notes that Keane was dividing the "brown people" into quaternion: a western branch that he termed the Malay, a north-western group that he termed the Micronesian, and the peoples of the eastern archipelagos that he termed the Maori and the Polynesian.
Ethnic and racial identifier
The appellation "brown people" has been applied in the 20th and 21st centuries to several groups. Edward Telles, a sociologist of race and ethnicity, and Jack Forbes both argue that this classification is biologically invalid. However, as Telles notes, it is still of sociological significance. Irrespective of the actual biological differences amongst humans, and of the actual complexities of human skin coloration, people nonetheless self-identify as "brown" and identify other groups of people as "brown", using characteristics that include skin color, hair strength, language, and culture, in order to classify them.
Forbes remarks upon a process of "lumping", whereby characteristics other than skin color, such as hair color or curliness, act as "triggers" for color categories "even when it may not be appropriate."
Ethnicity in South Africa
In 1950s (and later) South Africa, the "brown people" were the Coloureds, referring to those born of multiracial sexual unions out of wedlock. They were distinct from the Reheboth Basters inhabiting Namibia, who were primarily of Khoisan and European parentage. The Afrikaans terms, which incorporate many subtleties of heritage, political agenda, and identity, are "bruin" ("brown"), "bruines" ("browns"), and "bruinmense" ("brown people"). Some South Africans prefer the appellation "bruinmense" to "Coloured".
The South African pencil test was one example of a characteristic other than skin color being used as a determiner. The pencil test, which distinguished either "black" from "Coloured" or "Coloured" from "white", relied upon curliness and strength of hair (i.e. whether it was capable of retaining a pencil under its own strength) rather than upon any color factor at all. The pencil test could "trump skin color".
- Boshoff: But now why do you refer to you people as blacks? Why not brown people? I mean you people are more brown than black.
- Biko: In the same way as I think white people are more pink and yellow and pale than white.
- Boshoff: Quite ... but now why do you not use the word brown then?
- Biko: No, I think really, historically, we have been defined as black people, and when we reject the term non-white and take upon ourselves the right to call ourselves what we think we are, we have got available in front of us a whole number of alternatives ... and we choose this one precisely because we feel it is most accommodating.
Penelope Oakes characterizes Biko's argument as picking "black" over "brown" because for Biko it is "the most valid, meaningful and appropriate representation, even though in an individualistic decontextualized sense it might appear wrong" (Oakes's emphasis).
This contrasts with Piet Uithalder, the fictional protagonist of the satirical column "Straatpraatjes" (whose actual author was never revealed but who is believed to have been Abdullah Abdurahman) that appeared in the Dutch-Afrikaans section of the newspaper APO between May 1909 and February 1922. Uithalder would self-identify as a Coloured person, with the column targeted at a Coloured readership, introducing himself as "een van de ras" ("a member of the race") and characterizing himself as a "bruine mens".
Pardos in Brazil
In popular use, Brazilians also use a category of moreno m. [moˈɾenu], morena f. [moˈɾenɐ], lit. 'swarthy', from mouro, Portuguese for 'Moor', which were perceived as those with darker phenotypes than European peoples, so a moreno or morena is a person with a "Moorish" phenotype), which is extremely ambiguous, as it can mean "dark-haired people", but is also used as a euphemism for pardo, and even "black". In a 1995 survey, 32% of the population self-identified as moreno, with a further 6% self-identifying as moreno claro ("light moreno"). 7% self-identified as "pardo".
A comprehensive study presented by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research found that on average, 'white' Brazilians have >50% European genomic ancestry, whereas 'black' Brazilians have 17.1% European genomic ancestry. It concluded that "The high ancestral variability observed in Whites and Blacks suggests that each Brazilian has a singular and quite individual proportion of European, African and Amerindian ancestry in their mosaic genomes. Thus, the only possible basis to deal with genetic variation in Brazilians is not by considering them as members of color groups, but on a person-by-person basis, as 190 million human beings, with singular genome and life histories".
Use in Canada
Use in the United States
"Brown" has been used as a term in popular culture for some South Asian Americans, Middle Eastern Americans and some Latino Americans either as a pejorative term or sometimes for self-identification, as with brown identity. Judith Ortiz Cofer notes that appellation varies according to geographical location, observing that in Puerto Rico she is considered to be a white person, but in the United States mainland, she is considered to be a "brown person." Moustafa Bayoumi, an Egyptian-American professor of English at Brooklyn College, identified himself as a "brown Arab-American" in an opinion piece criticizing the United States Census for forcing self-identified brown persons to identify as white.
The term "Brown American" has been used both as a term of insult and as self-identification in referring to Filipino Americans. Furthermore, some Americans of Southeast Asian or South Asian descent have used the terms "Brown Asian" or "Brown South Asian" to separate themselves from East Asian Americans, who are largely synonymous with the United States view of Asian Americans.
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- Stoddard, Lothrop (1920). The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy. Charles Scribner's Sons.
Brown Man’s Land is the Near and Middle East. The brown world stretches in an immense belt clear across southern Asia and northern Africa, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans
- A. H. Keane, A. Hingston Quiggin, A. C. Haddon (2011). Man: Past and Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 478. ISBN 978-0521234108.
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- Robert Needham Cust (1878). A Sketch of the Modern Languages of the East Indies. Trübner & co. p. 13.
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- Forbes, Jack D. (March 2, 1993). Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252063213 – via Google Books.
- Edward Eric Telles (2004). "Racial Classification". Race in Another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0-691-11866-3.
- Mohamed Adhikari (2005). Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community. Ohio University Press. pp. 26, 163–169. ISBN 0-89680-244-2.
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- David Houze (2006). Twilight People: From Mississippi to South Africa and Back. University of California Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-520-24398-6.
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- Penelope Oakes (1996). "The Categorization Process: Cognition and the Group in the Social Psychology of Stereotyping". In W. P. (William Peter) Robinson and Henri Tajfel (ed.). Social Groups and Identities: developing the legacy of Henri Tajfe. Routledge. ISBN 0-7506-3083-3.
- Pena, S.D.J.; Bastos-Rodrigues, L.; Pimenta, J.R.; Bydlowski, S.P. (11 September 2009). "DNA tests probe the genomic ancestry of Brazilians". Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. 42 (10): 870–876. doi:10.1590/S0100-879X2009005000026. PMID 19738982.
- Sumartojo, Widyarini. "My kind of Brown": Indo-Canadian youth identity and belonging in Greater Vancouver (PhD thesis) (Archived 2014-10-19 at the Wayback Machine).
- Sundar, Purnima (2008). "To "Brown It Up" or to "Bring Down the Brown": Identity and Strategy in Second-Generation, South Asian-Canadian Youth". Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work. 17 (3): 251–278. doi:10.1080/15313200802258166. S2CID 143356411.
- Frost, Heather. Being “Brown” in a Canadian Suburb
- Sandhu, Danielle. Theorizing Brown Identity
- Patel, Sharmi. The Politics of Belonging: Cultural Identity Formation among Second Generation Canadians
- "What does it mean to be brown-skinned in Canada?". July 14, 2016.
- Pauline T. Newton (2005). "An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer". Transcultural Women Of Late-Twentieth-Century U.S. American Literature. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 161. ISBN 0-7546-5212-2.
- Bayoumi, Moustafa (14 February 2019). "I'm a brown Arab-American, and the US census refuses to recognize me". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
- Reyes, Bobby M. (May 14, 2007). "How Filipinos Came to Be Called the "Brown Americans" - MabuhayRadio". Mabuhay Radio. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- Schiavenza, Matt (October 19, 2016). "Why Some 'Brown Asians' Feel Left Out of the Asian American Conversation". Asia Society. Retrieved June 14, 2022.
And that, unfortunately, did not include any South Asians and only one Filipino. That caused a bit of an outcry. It raises a legitimate issue, of course, one about how 'brown Asians' often feel excluded from the Asian American conversation.
- Kulkarni, Saili S. (June 14, 2022). "South Asians Are Asians Too. When Will Our Racial Reckoning Be?". Ms. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
Yet we didn’t similarly rally to support the instances of Anti-Asian hate pre-COVID-19 and certainly not for Brown, South Asians.
- Alexander Winchell (1890). "XX. Genealogy of the Brown Races". Preadamites: Or, A Demonstration of the Existence of Men Before Adam. S. C. Griggs and company. xvii et seq.