“Brownies” is a short story written by author, ZZ Packer, which takes place at Camp Crescendo, a summer camp near the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. The story surrounds a group of African American Brownie girls, in the fourth grade, who journey to this campsite for a camping experience. On the trip, they encounter another brownie group comprised of white girls, all of who are mentally handicapped. “Brownies” is told from a first person involved point of view, through a fellow Brownie member from the African American troop, named Laurel. Because the story takes place in the 1960’s, ZZ Packer explores issues that are prevalent in that time period, such as racial segregation, prejudice and ignorance.
Racism is defined as the “systematic oppression of African-Americans and other people of color and the related ideology of white supremacy and black inferiority” (Bohmer 95). “It assumes an inherent superiority or inferiority on the basis of perceived group attributes” (Pachter et al. 61). Racial segregation exists everywhere in the United States during the 1960’s, especially in the south where it was required by law. “When you [live] in the south suburbs of Atlanta, it [is] easy to forget about whites. Whites [are] like those baby pigeons: real and existing, but rarely seen or thought about” (Packer 179). Packer conveys the reality of the times extremely well by creating the all-black girl scouts and the all-white girl scouts, but there is no mixing of the races in either group. Additionally, the two troops remain separated throughout the story and the tension created between them is a reminder of the struggles that black people experienced.
African Americans and white people do not share the same public facilities, including schools or libraries; however in “Brownies,” the African American troop and Troop 909, the White American troop, are both at Camp Crescendo at the same time. This initiates fuss among the African American troop because of the rarity of seeing white people. “[We have] seen them, but from afar, never within their orbit enough to see whether their faces [are] the way all the white girls appeared on TV – ponytailed and full of energy, bubbling over with love and money” (Packer 180). “They [are] white girls, their complexions a blend of ice cream: strawberry, vanilla” (Packer 177). The illustration of whites the people sees each day facilitate in emphasizing the views of whites.
Racism is not only directed toward people of color as white people are also discriminated against because they appear differently from the norm in a black community. “This divided social world has profound implications for Whites as well as Blacks…” (Gaines and Reed 99). Arnetta, a fellow Brownie, describes the white girls from Troop 909 as smelling like “wet Chihuahuas” (Packer 177). She later revises her statement to call them “Caucasian Chihuahuas” (Packer 178). Packer exhibits the ignorance of these simple-minded girls through their reaction to Arnetta’s...