“Brownies” takes place at Camp Crescendo, a summer camp for fourth graders near the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. The story is told in the first person by an African American girl named Laurel, known to the other girls by her nickname, Snot. Laurel announces that by the second day at the camp, all the girls in her Brownie troop had decided they were going to “kick the asses” of every girl in Brownie Troop 909, who were all white girls. The black girls took a dislike to the white girls when they first saw them. Arnetta, the girls’ ringleader, said they smelled “like Chihuahuas. Wet Chihuahuas.” When she adds that they were like “Caucasian Chihuahuas,” all the black girls go into fits of laughter. They regard the word Caucasian as a hilarious term of abuse that can be used in almost any situation.

The black girls have seen whites before but have never had much to do with them. But the ten white girls they encounter at the camp are closer to them and, therefore, more real and capable of exciting envy and hatred.

At the end of the first day at camp, Arnetta reports she heard one of the white girls refer to Daphne, a black girl, as “a nigger.” On prompting by Arnetta, Daphne, a quiet girl, nods her head to confirm that the derogatory term was used. Arnetta tells the other girls that they cannot let the white girls get away with using that word about them. She says they must teach the white girls a lesson. Janice suggests that they put daddy-long-legs in the white girls’ sleeping bags, and when the girls awake, beat them up. Arnetta tells Janice, who is not a popular girl, to shut up. Arnetta then announces that they are to hold a secret meeting. She turns to Laurel, whom she appears not to like, and asks her whether Laurel plans to tell Mrs. Margolin, their troop leader, about the situation.

On the second day of camp, the black girls eat their sandwich lunch by a stream that borders the field hockey lawn. Arnetta eyes the white girls from Troop 909 and would like to attack them right then and there, but the white girls are with their troop leader, which makes the mission impossible. When the white girls leave, Arnetta says they must find a way of getting them when they are alone. Laurel says that the girls will never be alone, and the only time they will be unsupervised is in the bathroom. Octavia tells Laurel to shut up, but Arnetta seems to think this is a useful piece of information.

The black girls walk to the restrooms, which are messy, with leaves and wads of chewing gum on the floor. Arnetta says that when they meet the white girls there, they will be nice to them at first and then tell them what happens when they call any one of the black girls a “nigger.” Janice says that she will tell the white girls, “We’re gonna teach you a lesson!” Laurel, who is normally very quiet, asks what will happen if the white girls say they did not use the offending word. Arnetta dismisses this possibility and says that all they have to do is fight. An exception is made for Daphne, however, since they are doing this to avenge her. The girls leave the restrooms, although Daphne stays behind, picking up the trash. When Arnetta is asked about the secret meeting, she replies that they have just had it.

That evening, just before their bedtime, Mrs. Hedy, the parent helper, comes to their...

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