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In an emotional episode of "Red Table Talk: The Estefans," television star Karamo Brown opened up about struggling to accept himself due to colorism within his family and community.
Brown, who is Afro-Latino, said that he only recently started acknowledging his Latino roots. His grandmother was born in Cuba.
"Growing up, I felt very embarrassed," the "Queer Eye" star explained. "Even today, talking to the producers and talking to people, every time they referred to me as Afro-Latino or Latino, I get very uncomfortable, still to this day … it’s very new."
Colorism, or discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones, came from his family, Brown said. He had several sisters, and he says his sisters with lighter skin tones were called beautiful and were treated better than he and one sister who had darker skin were.
"Playing outside as a kid was nerve-wracking," Brown said. "My grandmother would say 'Don't go outside and darken up my family ... So I would not go outside until after 5 p.m., because then the sun would be less. I still get emotional now, because you think 'I'm a kid, 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 make a comment.'"
While Brown believes that his grandmother was "trying to protect him" and "help him," her commentary and similar comments from other family members "destroyed (him) emotionally" and made him feel "like (he) wasn't connected)" to his culture.
"I don't think they understood what they were doing," Brown said. "But it was this subliminal unconscious, internalized racism that was in them."
Colorism goes past just skin color — people's facial features, bone structure and hair textures can all be judged as well, according to Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Florida who studies colorism. Brown said that he was often self-conscious about the shape of his nose.
"My grandmother, even my mother, would squeeze my nose because ... my nose is more African, my nose is more Black," Brown explained. "For many years, I kept saying to myself 'I need a nose job.' I did not know where that internalized hatred I had for myself was coming from."
Brown said that he is determined to make sure that cycle doesn't repeat with his two sons, Jason and Chris, who are both in their 20s.
"I tell them this skin is gorgeous, that dark is beautiful," Brown said. "I want to make sure they hear it. And I realize, it's important the language I have in my home. I no longer allow other family members ... or anyone who makes comments to my kids and me to walk away. It's important for me to be respectful of my family, especially those who are older, but to also say 'This is why that is hurtful, this is why that is damaging, and this is why I'm hoping we can talk about why you think it's OK to say that, and how you changing that could actually make us a stronger people and family.'"
"They don't realize it, but they're comparing," Brown continued. "There's something I used to say to people all the time: 'Comparison is the thief of joy. If you want to steal the joy from your family, whether it's their skin tone, whether it's their education, keep comparing your kids and see if you don't steal the joy and the love that's in your home.' Let's try to be better. Let's try to really think about what we're saying to each other as human beings."
Brown said that he is continuing to work on self-acceptance and is exploring his Latino side with the help of his boyfriend, Carlos Medel.
"This is the first time I've ever felt comfortable embracing my Latin side, being with Carlos," said Brown, adding that he was learning Spanish. "It's only because Carlos and I practice ... The fear has went away because he doesn't judge me."