|Sesame Street's "I Love My Hair" Puppet|
Now, no one is suggesting that we African American moms exclusively count on TV, songs, movies and the like to make our babies feel good about themselves. But it would be extremely naïve at best, disingenuous at worst, to suggest that the psyches of our girls aren’t affected by a constant barrage of media images that seek to set the standard for what’s right, what’s wrong and what we all need to fix to get to this stock version of “perfect.” It would be even dumber of us to suggest that non-black children aren't affected by this, either—that they don't come to some not-so-flattering conclusions about their African American counterparts when they have few to no references to refer to when forming those opinions.
So we black moms cloak our babies in the armor—ready them everyday for the battle against lazy beauty standards, pop culture ignorance, and outright black girl put-downs that seem to slap at them—and us!—around every stretch. In my daughters’ cases, I ended up making a border of picture frames filled with pictures of her family on the wall next to their cribs, so that they could see brown faces that look like theirs. I filled their bookshelves with as many books featuring black characters as I could find and requested that my friends do the same. They went to sleep listening to Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire and Satchmo and Kathleen Battle—artists with soulful voices and incredible, eclectic music filled with prideful messages that both our kids and we love to listen to. And Nick and I would whisper in their ears…
But Lord, when we spend our days telling our daughters that their skin is beautiful and their hair is perfect exactly the way it grows out of their heads and their lips and nose and hips and booty are full of goodness and that they are, indeed, visible—that we see them, even if nobody else does—it does something to our girls’ psyche when someone other than their mamas says, “Hey, you’re pretty awesome just the way you are.”
Nobody tells little black girls such things.
But this week, two somebodies did...
To read this essay in its entirety, pop on over to the MyBrownBaby page on Parenting's The Parenting Post—and if you're so moved, please leave a comment. We need to show everyone—magazines, radio stations, ad agencies, companies who depend on our cash to stay alive—that black moms and our children MATTER, and I can't think of a better way to do that than by lifting our voices.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone!