Should anyone ever be said to be a “Brownie”? Not according to a 100-plus-year-old group in Canada.
As reported by National Public Radio, Girl Guides of Canada (GGC) has had a revelation: It’s been guilty of racist branding.
Per GGC Chief Executive Jill Zelmanovits, a change had to be made:
“This wasn’t just about a name or its origin. This was about the fact that girls experienced racism and felt that they weren’t welcome in Girl Guides.”
The problem: The organization’s seven-to-eight-year-old division was known as “Brownies.”
You may be familiar with the term, as it’s also used by the Girl Scouts. Don’t be surprised if it soon gets sickled there, too:
The Girl Scouts of the USA also has a Brownies membership level, which is for girls in second and third grades, or about seven to nine years old. In a statement to NPR, a GSUSA spokesperson said the organization is “currently evaluating all aspects of our program to ensure alignment” with its pledge to become an antiracist organization but did not say specifically whether it is considering a similar name change.
“Antiracism” corrects a color different than brown. According to Verywell Mind, this is the idea:
People often mistakenly believe that simply being “not racist” is enough to eliminate racial discrimination. The problem with this perspective is that White people are often unaware of their own unconscious biases. People often don’t fully understand the institutional and structural issues that uphold White supremacy and contribute to racist behaviors, attitudes, and policies.
And as explained by UCLA Law Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 2020:
“Anti-racism is the active dismantling of systems, privileges, and everyday practices that reinforce and normalize the contemporary dimensions of white dominance. This, of course, also involves a critical understanding of the history of whiteness in America.”
Girl Scouts USA says it supports the Girl Guides, “in making decisions that best reflect the wellness and intentions of their communities and, most importantly, girls.”
But for some, it may seem a sad turn of events. GGC’s history dates back to 1910. From its “Who We Are” webpage:
Guiding provides a safe, all-girl environment that invites girls to challenge themselves, to find their voice, meet new friends, have fun and make a difference in the world. Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC) strives to ensure that girls and women from all walks of life, identities and lived experiences feel a sense of belonging and can fully participate. Girl Guides is an organization with over 100 years of history and a strong and growing future.
Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC ) is the leading organization for girls and women in Canada, with 97, 000 members across the country. Guiding provides a safe environment that invites girls and young women to challenge themselves, find their voice, meet new friends, have fun and make a difference in the world. Guiding offers the widest range of activities of any extracurricular activity for girls and young women, with opportunities to explore the arts, sciences, outdoor challenges, global awareness and so much more through enriching experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime.
“Empowering, challenging and engaging” — it’s “what today’s Girl Guides is all about.”
And now, that empowerment will lack any crumbs from “Brownies.”
More from NPR:
The new name should be used immediately, and it will be adopted across all Girl Guides platforms and merchandise by September. Members are asked not to wear clothing with the name “Brownies” after Sept. 1st when representing the organization.
To be clear, the name’s origin had nothing to do with shades of skin. But that fact doesn’t apply:
The century-old name “Brownies” came from English folklore and refers to fairies that aid, unseen, in household chores.
Canada’s Girl Guides said the name change is unrelated to the origins in folklore. Rather, it was made based on the fact that past and present members who were Black, Indigenous and other people of color said the name made them “feel extremely uncomfortable, prompted teasing and racist comments and was a barrier to feeling that they belong at Girl Guides.”
So goes our cultural revolution. Out with “Brownies,” along with “master bedroom,” “blacklist,” and “peanut gallery.”
And if you’re been wanting to earn some “brownie points,” you might want to do it immediately. That window may close quickly.
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