Brown people

Brown people
Map of indigenous skin color distribution in the world based on Von Luschan's chromatic scale.

Brown people or brown race is a political, racial, ethnic, societal, and cultural classification, similar to black people and white people. Like these, it is a metaphor for race based on human skin color, reflecting the fact that there are shades of skin colour intermediate between "Mediterranean" (skin type IV) and "black" (skin type VI). Consequently, the term includes groups that have no connection other than their intermediate skin tone, especially but not limited to mixed race individuals.


Historical concepts

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 Near East, Central Asia, South Asia and Austronesia. Stoddard's "brown" is one of five "primary races", contrasting with "white", "black", "yellow" and "Amerindian".

Carolus Linnaeus's original model had just four races, white, yellow, red, and black. His protege, anthropology founder Johann Blumenbach, completed his mentor's color-coded race model by adding the brown race, "Malay", for both the Malay division of Austronesian (Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Pattani, Sumatra Madagascar, Formosans, etc.) and Polynesians and Melanesians of Pacific Islands, and for Papuans and Aborigines of Australia.[1][2] Blumenbach characterized the racial classification scheme of John Hunter when he wrote, "John Hunter reckons seven varieties:... (6) &e., Turks, Abyssinians, Samoiedes and Lapps;"[3] In 1775, "John Hunter of Edinburg included under the label light brown, Southern Europeans, Sicilians, Abyssinians, the Spanish, Persians, Turks and Laplanders, and under the label brown, Tartars, Africans on the Mediterranean and the Chinese."[4]

Some anthropologists added the brown race back in as an Australoid category (which includes Aboriginal peoples of Australia along with various peoples of southeast and south Asia, especially Melanesia and the Malay Archipelago),[5] and viewed it as separate from Negroids (often lumping Australoids in with Caucasoids).[6] Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy differed from Blumenbach, 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.[7]

As surmised by Carleton Coon in 1939, "He [ Giuseppe Sergi ] also made it clear that the so-called Brown Race, in its dolichocephalic and leptorrhine or mesorrhine forms, was for the most part an extension of the same Mediterranean family into southern Asia."[8][9][10]

By the 19th century, the notion of a single "brown people" was being overthrown. Cust[11] mentions Grammar in 1852 denying that there was one single "brown race", but in fact several raci speaking distinct languages. The 1858 Cyclopaedia of India and of eastern and southern Asia[12] 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 archipelagoes that he termed the Maori and the Polynesian. Anthropologists and scholars were at the least dividing the people of the Pacific into the "dark people" and the "brown people". The "dark people" were the inhabitants of the Western Pacific as far as Fiji. The "brown people" were the people inhabiting the islands to the east of Fiji, as far as Easter Island.[13]

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 Ireland... [and includes] predynastic Egyptians... [and some populations of] Neolithic man".[14]

20th and 21st century concepts

The appellation "brown people" has been applied in the 20th and 21st centuries to several groups, usually mixed race ones. (Jack Forbes,[15] an expert in the field, in pointing out the disconnection between the colour labels and actual skin colour, observes that "[b]lack and white when mixed as pigments may produce gray, but when 'black' and 'white' humans mix the result is usually some type of 'brown'".)

Edward Telles is another academic in this field. He and 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 colouration, people nonetheless self-identify as "brown" and identify other groups of people as "brown", using characteristics that include skin colour, hair strength, language, and culture, in order to classify them. Forbes remarks upon a process of "lumping", whereby characteristics other than skin colour, such as hair colour or curliness, act as "triggers" for colour categories "even when it may not be appropriate".[15][16]

Coloureds in South Africa

In 1950s (and later) South Africa the "brown people" were the Coloureds, including those born of black-white sexual union out of wedlock. 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".[17][18]

The South African pencil test is one example of a characteristic other than skin colour 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 colour factor at all. The pencil test could "trump skin colour".[19][20]

Stephen Biko, in his trial in 1976, rejected the appellation "brown people" when it was put to him by Judge Boshoff:[21]

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.

Oakes[21] 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' emphasis).

This contrasts with Piet Uithalder, 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".[17]

Pardos in Brazil

In Brazil, the "brown people" are the pardos, one of the skin colour categories (branco, pardo, preto, amarelo, and indígena being Portuguese for "white", "(grey) brown", "black", "yellow", and "indigenous", respectively) that have been used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics since 1940. It is a broad classification that encompasses mestizos (caboclos), mulattoes (mulatos), zambos (cafuzos), etc. in short, multiracial Brazilians and assimilated, westernized Amerindians.

Pardo is a colour which can be translated from Portuguese as brown (properly called marrom [maˈʁõw]), grayish brown, beige (properly called bege [ˈbɛʒi]), of the color of the manila (called in Brazil papel pardo). In Hispanic America, pardo is a racial casta for people with European, Amerindian and Black African ancestries, possibly added with any others, which can not be called mestizos, blancos, zambos, mulatos or any other category because of their unique multiracial phenotype created by generations of miscegenation among the three main groups.

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 people with darker phenotypes than "Indigenous" Europeans, 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".[16]

Note that despite moreno being commonly used by some persons as a racial classification (mainly in Brazil), moreno is, in fact, the Portuguese equivalent to the English word "brunet(te)". It is used to describe a brown, dark brown or black-haired person as opposed to a blond (loiro/loira/louro/loura) one. In Portugal, it is also used to refer to skin colour; it is used usually referring to a heavily tanned white person. It is often preceded by the adjectives more or less, and is used to compare one person's colour to another.

Pardo is not intended to classify neither only multiracial people nor all persons of mixed origins. Most of self-described White and Black Brazilians, according to genetic research, have considerable degree of ancestry of all three main groups present in Latin America (also, most of the people in the 4th generation of Japanese Brazilians since the immigrant ancestor has some degree of non-Japanese admixture). Although historically both Colonial and Imperial Brazil had institutionalized discrimination against citizens which were deemed as people of color, contrary to the common sense in its population, it never had a casta classification like that of Hispanic America. White Brazilian people in the social status equivalent to the Hispanic criollo could have less than 80% of European (overwhelmingly Portuguese, seldom Spanish and much rarely other European ethnicities) ancestry. Aside some Amerindian and Black African descent which is knowly widespread among White populations in Brazil among all social classes in its five geographic regions since historically early times (c. 16th to 17th centuries), Moorish, Jewish, Arab and Romani mixed ancestry were also less significant to social status there than in Hispanic America.

It does not mean that social prestige of "fully non-whites" (people of color which are not mulattoes, mestizos, zambos, pardos, etc. in short, multiracial Brazilians, with Caucasian features i.e. Black Africans, Amerindians, their direct descendants and "westernized" Brazilians with wholly or almost fully non-Caucasian phenotypes, which also would be >70% European in their ancestry, since genes that form racial phenotypes are distributed random among the descendants of intermixing couples) and people with knowable non-European ancestry was equal, comparable or even acceptable among Brazilians elites, but that in Portuguese America, people were less concerned with ancestry and Limpeza de Sangue than its Hispanic neighbours. Furthermore, the institution closest to the North American phenomena known as passing in Brazil was quite different (the North American passing method was almost the rule in Brazil i.e. people with mixed origins and a Caucasian phenotypes are most of the White Brazilians). Generally, among different times (mostly in both Empire of and First Republic of Brazil), people with evident non-European ancestry (i.e. non-Caucasian features perceptible in a multiracial phenotype) were regarded as brancos ("whites") when social status of such person improves, and people from "fully non-white" categories were regarded as pardos ("browns"), trying to minimize their visible non-European ancestry to make them sound more "civilizated" and noble human beings and citizens.

The contemporary Brazilian society consider Jewish people from all North African, Middle Easterner and European origins and Middle Easterners of all faiths (the majority of those who came from Brazil were Lebanese and Syrian Christians) as White people, belong to the same group of European descendants.

A comprehensive study presented by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research found that on average, 'white' Brazilians have >70% European genomic ancestry, whereas 'black' Brazilians have 37.1% 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 his/her 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".[22]


(19th century and early 20th century name for Austronesians)

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the group that was called the Malay race (the people now called Austronesians), were traditionally referred to as the brown race.

Hispanics in the United States

In the United States, some Hispanic Americans, mainly mestizos, are referred to by some as "brown people", even though the traditional term for mestizos have used for themselves, dating from the 1920s, is the bronze race. There is a strong division over this, however. At opposite ends of the spectrum are those that take pride in calling themselves "brown", and those who assert that there is no such scientific classification and totally reject the idea. In the middle are those that assert that the combination of Amerindian and European heritage has led to a group of people who are, informally, "brown".[23][24]

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 she is considered to be a "brown person."[25] This has often been the stereotype of White Anglo-American prejudices that Spanish-speakers within the U.S. are all of one specific color, i.e. dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, due to many past and present Latin American migrants being of mestizo, Amerindian, or other non-caucasian race.[26] Consequently, white Hispanics are often branded as non-white due to their cultural heritage being synonymized with brown race, as well as contrary instances where their heritage is questioned or disregarded because they "look white" or "act white," this is because the merits of blond and blue-eyed Nordic race were described to be superior that the Southern Europeans, who include Spaniards, and their white Latin American descendants were called to be inferior.[original research?] The U.S. Census Bureau officially designates "Hispanic" as relating to ethnicity independent from race yet census forms asking for race may list "Hispanic or Latino" as an entity separate from white, Native American, two or more races, etc. In addition, Spanish-language media in both Latin America and within the U.S. identifies "Hispanic" as pertaining to Hispanophone culture which includes different races, ethnicities, and ancestries.[27][28]

The 1960s in the United States saw the creation of "brown pride" movements such as the Chicano Movement and La Raza. However, currently most Hispanic Americans do not refer to themselves as "brown people"[citation needed], but as hyphenated Americans of a certain national origin.

Non-white people have limited media visibility. The U.S. Hispanic media was accused of overlooking the brown-skinned indigenous and mixed-race Hispanic and black Hispanic populations and overrepresentation of white, largely blond and blue-eyed/green-eyed Hispanic and Latino Americans through the telenovelas who resemble Scandinavians and other northern Europeans more than they resemble the typical white Hispanics mostly of Southern European descent.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

South Asian populations

It is said that the racial qualities mentioned by Elliot Smith were exactly the same as those mentioned by Giuseppe Sergi who wrote of the "Mediterranean race". Sergi too spoke of a brown race[9][10] although he discussed their distribution through Afro-Eurasia. Scientific racism often included the populations of South Asia as blending from the Mediterranean (Europid) to the Australoid (Dravidian) race in a north-to-south gradient.[8] The term 'Brown' was also used by British Empire as a derogatory term for natives of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. Later, the term 'Brown' began to be used as descriptor for British people of South Asian origin.

Some Desi or South Asian Americans will identify their race as brown[36] which Sociologist A. Rajagopal thinks is a result of identifying with Hispanic Americans who are more likely to identify as brown,[36] although Indian Americans and Hispanic Americans who identify their race as brown may not identify each other as the same race.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Jane Desmond (2001). Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World. University of Chicago Press. p. 54. ISBN 0226143767. 
  2. ^ John G. Jackson (1938). Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization: A Critical Review of the Evidence of Archaeology,.... New York, N.Y.: The Blyden Society. 
  3. ^ Blumenbach, Johann. The Anthropological Treatise of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. London: Longman Green, 1865.
  4. ^ Bernasconi, Robert. Race Blackwell Publishing: Boston, 2001. ISBN 0-631-20783-X
  5. ^ Houghton Mifflin. "Definition of Australoid". Yahoo Education. 
  6. ^ Bert Thompson (August 1990). "The Origin of Races". Reason & Revelation (Apologetics Press) 10 (8): 33–36. 
  7. ^ Joseph-Anténor Firmin and Antenor Firmin (2002). The Equality of the Human Races. Asselin Charles (translator) and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (contributor). University of Illinois Press. p. 17. ISBN 0252071026. 
  8. ^ a b Chapter VIII, section 6, "Racial Classification within the White Family"
  9. ^ a b P. 27, Racial Theories in Fascist Italy, By Aaron Gillette
  10. ^ a b P. 52, Are Italians White?: how race is made in America By Jennifer Guglielmo, Salvatore Salerno
  11. ^ Robert Needham Cust (1878). A Sketch of the Modern Languages of the East Indies. Trübner & co.. p. 13. 
  12. ^ Edward Balfour (1976). The Encyclopaedia Asiatica, Comprising Indian Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Asia. Cosmo Publications. p. 315. 
  13. ^ William Wyatt Gill (1892). The South Pacific and New Guinea Past and Present with Notes on the Hervey Group. Charles Potter. p. 6. 
  14. ^ Mackenzie, Donald A. Myths of Babylonia and Assyria Montana:Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-4179-7643-8
  15. ^ a b Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
  16. ^ a b Edward Eric Telles (2004). "Racial Classification". Race in Another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0691118663. 
  17. ^ a b 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 0896802442. 
  18. ^ Gerald L. Stone (2002). "The lexicon and sociolinguistic codes of the working-class Afrikaans-speaking Cape Peninsula coloured community". In Rajend Mesthrie. Language in South Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0-521-53383-X. 
  19. ^ David Houze (2006). Twilight People: From Mississippi to South Africa and Back. University of California Press. p. 134. ISBN 0520243986. 
  20. ^ Birgit Brander Rasmussen (2001). The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness. Duke University Press. p. 133. ISBN 0822327406. 
  21. ^ a b 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. Social Groups and Identities: developing the legacy of Henri Tajfe. Routledge. ISBN 0750630833. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Raoul Lowery Contreras (2003). Jalapeno Chiles, Mexican Americans and Other Hot Stuff: A Peoples' Cultural Identity. iUniverse. p. 39. ISBN 0595292569. 
  24. ^ George Eaton Simpson and J. M. Yinger (1985). "Minority family patterns and intermarriage". Racial and Cultural Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination. Springer. p. 301. ISBN 0306417774. "In the eastern states, numerous groups of people of mixed descent reside. These mestizos are known by such names as Jackson Whites (New York and New Jersey) [...] and Melungeons (Tennessee). In Virginia, there are many groups known as Rumps, Issues, Cubans, and Brown People [...] Many Mestizos think of themselves as Whites and resent any suggestion that they are not white." 
  25. ^ 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 0754652122. 
  26. ^ PBS: A CULTURAL IDENTITY An essay on the meaning of the Hispanic label. By Richard Rodriguez.
  27. ^ Separated by a common language: The case of the white Hispanic
  28. ^ Hispanics: A Culture, Not a Race
  29. ^ Quinonez, Ernesto (2003-06-19). "Y Tu Black Mama Tambien". Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  30. ^ The Blond, Blue-Eyed Face of Spanish TV
  31. ^ Blonde, Blue-Eyed Euro-Cute Latinos on Spanish TV
  32. ^ What are Telenovelas? – Hispanic Culture
  33. ^ Racial Bias Charged On Spanish-Language TV
  34. ^ Black Electorate
  35. ^ Skin tone consciousness in Asian and Latin American populations
  36. ^ a b c Morning, Ann. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. "The Racial Self-Identification of South Asians in the United States." 2001. July 21, 2007. [1]

Further reading

  • 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.. 

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