I'm wondering why you use "brown" to describe your sons. Color words (red, yellow, black) have been rejected and are being discarded. I'm wondering if it is a term you've chosen or is it acceptable to the Indian American community? I understand that "brown" may encompass several ethnic groups. Because color words have become unacceptable and for the sake of parallelism, perhaps another way of conveying their ethnicity and the dangers of being judged on outward appearances could be used.Judging by the way they put the word "brown" in quotes, US News and World Report and Newsweek also seemed startled by my choice of words. Here's part of the answer I gave:
Brown does seem to be acceptable to my generation of Indians and younger ... I wonder if color words are being discarded by well-meaning whites, but championed by the next gen who are grappling with race in a way we never did — see yellowworld, ultra brown, and black planet as examples.But does that mean brown, yellow, and black people can use color words but white people can't? How should authors of any race describe the skin color of our characters? Shaken and Stirred and TadMack raised the issue during the summer, with Tadmack asserting convincingly that "it doesn't make sense to avoid race ... we can't pretend that since it's not directly affecting us that we've somehow transcended it, to arrive on a rarefied, colorless plain."
In the effort to be inclusive, though, authors can fall into a Rowling-esque race-writing trap (elaborately detailing the range of white people's facial hues and expressions-- pink, blushing, pale, etc.,-- while describing her black characters solely as ... black.) But can we blame J.K. Rowling, or is the English language itself over-stocked with the vocabulary, similes, metaphors, and imagery needed to describe white people?
A communal discomfort over race, the desire of well-meaning people to "move beyond it," an in-your-face response by younger people, and the limits of a language with a history of describing European people -- there's only one way for a storyteller to diffuse the tension, in my opinion, and that's through the power of humor. Any other ideas?