School officials at a high school in Idaho told a Latina student that she could not wear a hoodie with the words, “Brown Pride.”

They reportedly told her the hoodie was racist and gang-related. They told her it was akin to a student wearing a “white pride” hoodie and they ordered her to take it off. They gave her a dress code violation, according to news reports.

So Caldwell High School senior Brenda Hernandez organized a protest earlier this month. Her TikTok and Instagram videos of the protest have gone viral.

“I had a brown pride protest at my school today,” she wrote on Instagram. ‘“I was told to take off my Brown Pride hoodie because it could be racist and it was like wearing a white pride shirt.”

In the video a group of students are shown holding posters that read “Brown Pride,” and “We refuse to let our culture die.” They also waved the Mexican flag.

This all transpired in Caldwell, Idaho, population 60,000, and more than 37% of the population in that small town is Latino.Yes, there are Brown people in Idaho. 

It’s just another attack on Latino/a/x culture like the recent move by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who banned the word Latinx in state government business.

Expressing Brown pride is not racist. What these youth demonstrated is pride in their culture and in themselves. It’s no different than a student who wears green, or an Irish flag, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

It is not equivalent White Supremacy, which advocates that whites are superior to other races and often employ violent tactics.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks white supremacist groups in their hate map. In 2020, they tracked six hate groups in Idaho. They also tracked 65 hate groups in California.

Brown pride should never be compared to White Supremacy. To say “I’m Brown and proud” is a cultural affirmation dating back to the Chicano movement, and it’s heartening that Latino youth in Idaho of all places are carrying that banner today.

My Chicano parents taught us that we were “Brown and proud.” It was a way to instill pride in our Mexican culture and heritage that is too often disparaged and demeaned in mainstream culture. 

To say “Brown pride” is akin to saying “Black is beautiful.” It’s an anthem similar to the James Brown classic song “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).”

These phrases of Black and Brown pride are not exclusionary; they don’t mean that other races are less than. They just aim to celebrate communities that have suffered systemic racism.

A 1995 song “Chicano Anthem” by Ese Rich-Rock made the case for Brown pride.

We gotta bring it brown pride like it oughta be

Don’t let ’em change our culture

Don’t let ’em run our future

Some people let it, and it happens if you

Could let it get to you, well, I never sweat

Cause I’m

Down to brown, and a change, they’ll never get it.”

This student protest in Idaho is reminiscent of the walkouts led by Chicano students in East Los Angeles in 1968.

The East Los Angeles Walkouts were a call to action for civil rights and improved access to education for Latino youth in the city.  The students presented a list of demands to the Los Angeles Board of Education, including requests for curriculum changes, bilingual education, and hiring of Mexican-American administrators.

The director of a LULAC chapter in Idaho, actually made the sweatshirt with his company Jefito Hats, according to NBC News. The local LULAC chapter is reportedly looking into the incident along with the ACLU.

The students should be allowed to express their Brown pride. Let them wear hoodies, hats, T-shirts and show pride in their culture and heritage.

Teresa Puente has spent her career reporting on immigration and Latino issues in the U.S. and has also reported extensively from Mexico. Previously, she was a staff reporter at the Chicago Tribune and...