America is browning. As politicians, schoolteachers, and grandparents attempt to decipher what that might mean, Richard Rodriguez argues America has been brown from its inception, as he himself is. As a brown man, I think . . . (But do we really ...
ut do we really think that color colors thought?)
In his two previous memoirs, Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation, Rodriguez wrote about the intersection of his private life with public issues of class and ethnicity. With Brown, his consideration of race, Rodriguez completes his "trilogy on American public life."
For Rodriguez, brown is not a singular color. Brown is evidence of mixture. Brown is a shade created by desire-an emblem of the erotic history of America, which began the moment the African and the European met within the Indian eye. Rodriguez reflects on various cultural associations of the color brown-toil, decay, impurity, time-arranging dazzling juxtapositions for which he is justly famous: Alexis de Tocqueville, Malcolm X, minstrel shows, Broadway musicals, Puritanism, the Sistine Chapel, Cubism, homosexuality, and the influence on his life of two federal figures-Ben Franklin and Richard Nixon ("the dark father of Hispanicity").
At the core of the book is an assessment of the meaning of Hispanics to the life of America. Reflecting upon the new demographic profile of our country, Rodriguez observes that Hispanics are becoming Americanized at the same rate that the United States is becoming Latinized. Hispanics are coloring an American identity that traditionally has chosen to describe itself as black and white.