Karamo Brown Says He Struggled To Identify As Latino For Years Due To the Racism He Experienced From His Own Family
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You may know Karamo Brown as the culture expert for Netflix’s hit show “Queer Eye”. And you may also know him as a proud gay Afro-Cubano. But you may not have known the journey Brown has had to go through to fully identify as a Latino man.
In the most recent episode of “Red Table Talk: The Estefans“, Karamo Brown opened up about the racism he faced from his Cuban family as a young boy.
On an episode focused on colorism and racism in the Latino community, the Estefans sat down with Karamo Brown to discuss his difficult childhood where he was regularly belittled about his skin color by his light-skinned Afro-Cuban grandmother. Brown revealed that the criticism made it difficult for him to identify both as Latino and as a Black man.
“Growing up, I felt very embarrassed,” he said. “Even today, to be honest, talking to the producers and talking to people, every time they refer to me as Afro-Latino or Latino, I get very uncomfortable. Still, to this day.” Brown also revealed that his family members would squeeze his nose and bemoan the fact that it looked too African.
Brown explained that his family’s behavior wasn’t due to outright maliciousness, but instead, they were side effects of white supremacy. “I don’t think they understood what they were doing,” he told Gloria Estefan. “But it was the subliminal, unconscious, internalized racism that was in them.”
Karamo Brown revealed that his abuela forbid him from playing out in the sun for fear of his skin getting darker.
“For me, playing outside as a kid was nerve wracking,” Brown explained. “Because my grandmother would say, don’t go outside and don’t darken up my family. So, I would not go outside until after 5pm because then the sun would be less.”
Brown says that the trauma of being criticized for his skin color still haunts him today. “I still get emotional right now because you think: I’m a kid,” he said, his voice audibly breaking. “And I should not have to be thinking about not going outside and playing because I don’t want to get darker so that my grandmother doesn’t say a comment.”
Karamo Brown said that he now understands that his abuela’s actions were coming from a misguided to protect him from more discrimination. “Her intention was to protect me, to try to say things that she thought was going to help me,” he said. “But the impact is that it destroyed me emotionally but it also made me feel like I wasn’t connected to my culture.”
Despite his past trauma, Karamo Brown says that he is slowly learning to embrace his Latino identity–especially with the help of his Mexican boyfriend, Carlos Medel.
Karamo Brown told the Estefans that since he has started dating his boyfriend, he has felt more comfortable identifying as Latino. “This is the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable in embracing my Latin side, you know, with Carlos.” He revealed that Medel is teaching him Spanish and they practice everyday. “The fear has went away because he doesn’t judge me.”
We love to hear that Karamo Brown is finally feeling comfortable embracing his Latin roots. We hope, with time, he’ll step even more fully into his identity as both a Latino and a Black man. After all, it is fully possibly to be both.
You can watch this episode of “Red Table Talk: The Estefans” here.
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