19 August 2013

New Website!

I Am A Black Mother has moved! Please visit www.iamablackmother.com to visit our new website. Thank you!

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

16 August 2013

"Black Is Beautiful": Teaching Our Children To Love Their Skin

Black is Beautiful

Have you heard the phrase "Black Is Beautiful"?

I have, but never knew where it came from. A quick internet search told me it was a movement started by African-Americans in the 1960s to teach that natural African-American features are beautiful. My children are young - all four and younger. They have no concept of race. The two oldest, L (4) and M (3) sometimes point out differences in skin color, but make no connection to the color of ones skin and their racial heritage. They do not yet understand "African-American" and "Caucasian". If you told M (3) she is "black" she would be confused. Then she'd probably tell you that her hair is black, her skin is brown, and her eyes are brown. She might even say, "Just like Miss N 'cause I grew in her belly." (To learn more about race perception based on a child's age read I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World by Marguerite Wright.)

Though my children are young I still believe I can teach them that their skin is beautiful.

I say "their" because I want my Caucasian son to know that his skin is beautiful too. If he doesn't learn it now he may want to tan in the future and we all know just how damaging and life-threatening that is. Maybe not since he is a boy, but I have a Caucasian daughter who will be listening to these conversations soon. Besides, I don't want M to feel singled out by just focusing on her. Then she may begin to wonder why I tell this only to her (and P when she gets older) and it may have the opposite effect. Right now I just bring it up every now and then in casual conversation, or we discuss it if it comes up. Just a sentence or two here and there. Books have helped me to do so. We recently bought I'm Like You, You're Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other by Cindy Gainer. It's a bit long, and a bit too redundant so we skip pages here and there sometimes to keep the children's interest (which means we see all the pages at one time or another), but I love the message. It has made L think and he has asked questions which have led to awesome learning conversations. M isn't quite old enough to make connections and ask questions, but she sure listens when I answer L's questions. Sometimes I avoid it all because I feel they are not mentally ready to discuss it yet. For example, at the pool last weekend one of the children asked me why a lady was laying in the sun. Instead of going into the whole tanning thing I just said she wanted to feel the warm sun and to dry off from being in the pool. I pick and choose and leave the conversation for a different day when their brains are a bit more mature and they can wrap their minds around the idea of someone wanting to change themselves.

I've been searching for "Black is Beautiful" posts, articles, and videos on the subject. I came up with a few I want to share with you.

One called "Black & Proud" from My Brown Baby

states: "Kids who hear they're the best tend to believe it and rise to the challenge - particularly black children. A recent study published in the journal Child Development backs me up on this; the study, authored by Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh, and Harvard University's James P. Huguley, found that when parents promote feelings of racial knowledge, pride and connection, black kids do better at school."   The same post also states, "They wear the armor. It's a brilliant coat of self-confidence instilled in them since the womb, not only because I believe them to be clever and beautiful, but because the world conspires to tell my girls different - to ingrain in their brains that something is wrong with their kinky hair and their juicy lips and their dark skin and their piercing brown eyes and their bubble butts and thick thighs and their beautiful brains and their eclectic culture and black girl goodness." If your transracially adopted African-American children are growing up in a predominately white society do not think you have no cause for worry. You have even more cause. They will be different. No child, tween, or teen wants to be different. They will want to conform. There is a false standard of beauty that even Caucasian girls strive to achieve. It will be even more stressful and emotional for our African-American daughters who were not born with skin and hair and features that are similar to the false ideal. It needs to begin from when they are small. Right from the time they are born. Build them up. Build them up so high that even if society manages to knock down a brick or two there is plenty left to protect them. Put that armor on them. "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." -The Help by Kathryn Stockett



 All of this goes back to positive affirmation, something I've posted about before, but not in enough detail. It is CRUCIAL to a child's well-being, and that much more important to a black child's well-being.

A new "Black is Beautiful" movement has begun.

A movement for all people to accept and love themselves and others just they way they are. It is small. It is quiet. Let's help make it big! Let's help it explode! How? Teach the children. NO ONE SHOULD FEEL THEY SHOULD CHANGE THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO BE BEAUTIFUL. I could stand to listen to my own advice right there. Mommynoire.com gives the following suggestions as helps: "Purchase Toys that celebrate our heritage." I wanna take that one step further and say purchase toys that celebr
ate all heritages. "Connect the dots. I like to point out to my daughter the cultural ties that bind us to our ancestral home - Africa." "Encourage transcultural learning." Learn about other cultures. Go to cultural events. Learn another language as a family, or even just a few words from another language. Teach them about all cultures and they will learn that different is not bad. It would benefit every family from every culture should learn about other cultures.

Bill Cosby
Finally, I'd like to share a video with you titled "A Girl Like Me". The YouTube caption for this video reads, "Color is more than skin deep for young African-American women struggling to define themselves."

 If you take nothing else from this post, watch minutes 3:47 - 4:53 of this video.

 

 What can you take from this video? You can learn the stereotypes other children have been susceptible to and build your children up against them. (P.S. We do not have Barbie dolls in our home. In my opinion, she is the anti- of what I want my girls to learn about women and themselves. An easy thing for my children to give up to avoid even the chance of those dolls affecting them the way they affected me.) I know as for our family we have work to do. We could do much better at teaching culture and building up our children. Starting with the way I perceive and show that I perceive myself. What has worked for your family? What do you hope to change? How are you teaching your children that "black is beautiful"? Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

09 August 2013

Follow I Am A Black Mother

IAABM has ventured into social media! I share adoption quotes, children in need, adoption language, transracial adoption information, African-American hair styles and hair care, adoption books, and much, much more. Just click on the follow links below:



I Am A Black Mother


Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

28 July 2013

Celebrity Skin Color

I noticed. Beyonce's skin has changed. I googled it and found images and articles observing the same phenomenon.





While I fully acknowledge that images are able to be photoshopped, I still believe Beyonce has lightened her skin. And then I saw these photos. Totally a reality. I cannot judge her or others who have done the same. I've never been in their shoes. But I can evaluate the effect it will have on my African-American daughters.



One article states:

"...every woman of colour has an important social and cultural history that cannot simply be bleached away or denied by the use of hair straighteners. That's why I passionately believe that Beyonce's ignorance of how this betrays her heritage is so insidiously damaging to all people of colour..."

"Today, Hollywood may love Halle Berry with her light brown skin tone, but obviously black actresses by and large don't make the A-list."

"The truth is that though things have slowly been changing for the better, skin still matters, and on the whole, the world believes it is better not to be dark."

"Surveys in the U.S. have proved that, all things being equal, the lighter skinned that people are, the more chances they get in life, and the more respect they receive..."

"So why do these attitudes persist so long after independence in the 21st century? Academics studying these trends say it is because of globalization and the emergence of 'international beauty' prototypes based on the looks you see in fashion magazines and films..."

".. these idols are shallow and do not understand how frivolous choices affect and undermine the self-esteem of women and children of colour." -www.dailymail.co.uk

So what does all of this mean for my family? Well, I suppose it means less media in our home. As of now there is almost no media in front of the children. They are all under the age of five and are not yet interested. In the future there will have to be a discussion about why some people choose to lighten their skin. Maybe it will come with the same conversation as why some people will judge them based solely on their skin color. Though I accept that people have the right to alter their bodies however they want, I do wish those in the spotlight would consider the effect their alteration have on others, especially children and teens.

The same article states:

"The young daughter of one of my relatives even tried to scrub her 'dirty' skin off with a Brillo pad, such was her loathing for her natural colour..."

"My little girl Ciara is 13, her hair is curly and I don't let her straighten it, and she had a beautiful toffee- coloured skin tone... she has seen Beyonce and she is telling me she hates her hair and wants to lighten it and straighten it."

Unfortunately this is all too common. Precious African-American daughters are being brainwashed into the slavery-spawned idea of "lighter is better", and instead of combating this falsehood with the truth of their natural beauty, society bombards them with a full arsenal of you-are-not-good-enough. I, like all other teens, grew up with body image issues. I cringe to imagine my darlings having to add skin color and hair texture issues on top of the already overwhelming weight of teen troubles. It is our job to do all we can to prepare them for the imminent onslaught. Waiting until it becomes an issue will not do. Start now. Start when they are babies. Build them up so high that no one can tear them down.

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

14 July 2013

Trayvon Martin

I'm not posting to share my opinion of the trial. Although I will say that I do not agree with those who say race has nothing to do with the incident. I'm posting because the trial has stirred up within me some very deep thoughts and emotions.

We were expecting our newly adopted baby girl to be a boy. Simple misreading from the ultrasound tech. Some recent thoughts of mine are about if P had been born a boy. I know I have to teach my children about racism. I know I have to one day tell my African-American girls that people may not like them just because of their skin color. But, if P had been a boy this discussion would be even harder. I would have to tell him how he will be judged based on his being an African-American male. How he will be stopped by police officers more often (no hate for the po-po, I have much love and respect for them), how the clerk at a store will be nervous if he walks in with his hands in his pockets, how something as simple as a hoodie will turn him into a delinquent in someone else eyes.

My heart aches for the mothers of black boys. It is hard enough to raise children in this world. To add the horrible truth of racial profiling on top of it all has got to be a huge burden for a mother's already heavy-with-worry heart. This country has come a long way, but not near as far enough.

Update:

A friend posted a video about the Martin/Zimmerman trial called "The Truth About George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin". It has changed my view on the situation. Have a look and see what you think.


He cites some nationwide statistics that just hurt my heart. They begin at about 22:35.

Thoughts??

Update, again:

A friend shared this Facebook status of a young black man named Wesley Hall:

"Man, I'm just glad I had a mom who gave me the realness from a young age. I can remember thinking she was so stuck in the past for telling me that I couldn't do or say or wear certain things, that I could not stay out as late as my white friends could, that I could not "experiment" with any of the things my white friends did. I struggled so much with her for trying to impress upon me the fact that I was different. Because I'm supposed to be. I lived in a nice house, spoke more than one language, was well educated and well socialized and I did not understand why I needed to constantly act in a manner designed to disarm another person's suspicions about me. 

But wow, I get it now. Every black kid has that moment where he has to decide to accept the armor that his parents present to him to get through life as an American black male, or walk around naked. And the crazy part is, it’s probably something most people outside of the black community never see. I can remember my mom talking to me over and over and over again about what to do and who to call if I was ever picked up by a police officer. She made sure I knew that I needed to declare that I was exercising my Miranda rights rather simply evoke them without notice. If you were in JNJ your mom probably made you take a WHOLE FREAKING CLASS on how to deal with police officers and other people who were perceived to be threatening. 

And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of goin to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been. 

And I owe her the deepest of apologies for all of the times that I accused her of overacting or impressing a vision of a society long since passed on the one that exists today. 

It doesn’t matter how well traveled you are or how many languages you speak or who where you went to school. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how much good you’ve done in the world. From afar we are all the same. 

It used to hurt when my mother would tell me I couldn’t put my hood up or that I couldn’t stay out as late as my white friends. She told me I was a young black male and I couldn’t afford these things and I figured she never knew how much it hurt for be to know that she did not have faith that I could transcend the many stereotypes that swirl around me and be seen as an individual. 

But when I think about my own mother having to come down the police station, and Identify my naked body and come home and go in my room that would feel strangely empty. She would have to walk past my favorite custom built aquarium and the framed boards my class in japan made for me on my last day of study abroad, she would have to open my closet and go through all of the clothes I would never wear again and find my favorite suit and then walk out of a room where every object holds a memory. 

She would have to go on interviews and meet with lawyers and try to be strong in the face of unimaginable tragedy. While people picked apart my character and found every facebook status where I cursed or every stupid picture I was ever captured in. She would have to sit in court and dignify people who sought to put me in the ground with not a shred of justice with her presence and her silence. And then on top of that, after a year of pain, to hear from 6 other mothers that my life meant nothing........

And the thought that after 24 hours of labor, thousands of dollars on tuition and extra curriculars and trips and summer activties, and millions of tiny sacrifices that she could be left with the dust of my memory and the guilt of having not prepared me for this thing called America. 

I joke about it, but I know how much I mean to her. Before I go parasailing I think about her, and before I jump in the ocean I think about her, and when I had tigers crawling all over me and licking my face I was thinking about her. But I did those things because I knew that even if I got poisoned by a cobra or mauled by a tiger, I know it would have been hard.......but she would have derived comfort from knowing that I died pursuing happiness, adventure, and experiences that are worth their risks. 

But I know that she would never ever be able to recover from knowing that I died the way that Trayvon died. And so I understand so well why she taught me to think about the world in the way that I do. To remember how to love life, be open to others, but to always remember who I am and to be so secure in who I am, that I accept that I must constantly think and behave with consideration for that one person who might think they already know. 

I have fought with my mom, dad, and stepdad about what it means to be a young black man in 2013. And I have at times been annoyed at all of them for presenting me with my constraints. But I am so lucky to have been armed with the truth at such and early age. The world can be so confusing for us. So much kindness, and so much cruelty. We've all accused our parents of over estimating the dangers out there. But they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance. Shout-out to all of the parents out there, giving that extra course on how to keep your children from being victimized in a society that does not believe that they can be victims."

So my view has changed again. I say "view" and not "opinion" because I do not have a set opinion on this matter. I am willing to change as I learn new things, as you can see. The point of this blog is to share with you things I have learned and let you do with it what you may. As for me and this particular subject, I am just saddened by it all. Saddened it was made into a racial issue, saddened someone died, and saddened by how it has affected our nation's youth.

Basically I currently share the same opinion of Charles Barkley: Charles Barkley on CNBC.

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

21 June 2013

"Adopted"

Out of the blue yesterday, my daughter who will soon be three looked at my husband and said, "Guess who's adopted?" Then she turned her thumb toward herself. My husband asked her what "adopted" means, and she shrugged her shoulders.

She's too young to understand "adopted" fully, but she knows she's different. She's knows "adopted" is one of her labels. I think what brought this up is a new book I bought. "Rosie's Family". I will review it later, but sufficient to say I like it. She is just beginning to learn what all this adoption stuff means. She's just beginning to actually think about it all.

I have always taught my children about adoption. She's heard about it her whole little life. One of the ways I do this is to explain how all babies grow in a woman's belly, "L" grew in momma's belly, and "M" grew in Miss "N"'s belly. "L" started catching on at about this same age. Maybe a bit later. I suppose it's "M"'s turn now.

I'm nervous. I want to tread carefully and say the right things. I want her to know different is not bad. That adoption is not strange. I am so glad she and "P" have each other. Many things running through my mind. What has been a help to you in teaching your child(ren) about adoption?

And since it's been forever since you've seen a picture of "M", and she's just grown so much, here's a picture of my silly goose of a girl.

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

20 June 2013

Snapaholics!



I am proud to introduce a new sponsor of I Am A Black Mother - Snapaholics! Well, actually it's a reintroduction. I have ordered from Snapaholics! before and have mentioned them here on my blog. They are now under new ownership, and have new items in weekly!

"Welcome to Snapaholics! If you are not already addicted to hair bling for your little one, you soon will be! We provide all the hair decorations you could possibly need for rockin' cornrows, twists, braids, extensions, or any other style you could possibly dream up." -Snapaholics!

Boy, isn't that the truth. I've been looking around there today and have found some really fun stuff. Snapaholics! has snaps, beads, barrettes, headbands, bows, styling tools, sleep caps, pillow cases, bandannas, sidewinders, and more. They have a great selection and I've always been happy with the items I have ordered from them. Go check it out for yourself at www.snapaholics.com, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/snapaholicshaircare.

Kathleen, the new owner of Snapaholics!, has generously offered to give my readers an exclusive discount code to everything in her online store! Just go to Snapaholics! at www.snapaholics.com, pick out some fun hair pretties and tools from the large selection there, and enter the discount code mothers15 when checking out to receive 15% off your whole order. This code is good for the next two weeks! Happy shopping!

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

19 June 2013

One Drop Rule & Ancestry

"One drop rule". Have you heard this term? I have, but vaguely. "To be considered black in the United States not even half of one's ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation's answer to the question 'Who is black?' has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the 'one-drop rule,' meaning that a single drop of  'black blood' makes a person a black." -pbs.org

I grew up in the South but only vaguely remember hearing this term. I imagine that's because I am not black. The person who brought this term to my attention, and therefore inspired me to post about it, is a African-American young lady who was born and raised in Texas. I imagine she heard the term growing up.

"Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a highly regarded African-American educator and scholar. He directs of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard. He received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1981 to support his research for the Black Periodical Literary Project." -biography.com

"Henry Louis Gates, Jr. publicized... genetic studies on his two series African American Lives, shown on PBS. The specialists summarized United States population figures this way:

-58 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5% European ancestry (equivalent of one great-grandparent);
-19.6 percent of African Americans have at least 25% European ancestry (equivalent of one grandparent);
-1 percent of African Americans have at least 50% European ancestry (equivalent of one parent) (Gates is one of those, he discovered);and
-5 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5% Native American ancestry (equivalent to one great-grandparent)."
-wikipedia {Henry Louis Gates, Jr., In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (New York: Crown Publishing, 2009), pp. 20–21}

"Not only does the one-drop rule apply to no other group than American blacks, but apparently the rule is unique in that it is found only in the United States and not in any other nation in the world. In fact, definitions of who is black vary quite sharply from country to country, and for this reason people in other countries often express consternation about our definition...

"The phenomenon known as "passing as white" is difficult to explain in other countries or to foreign students. Typical questions are: "Shouldn't Americans say that a person who is passing as white is white, or nearly all white, and has previously been passing as black?" or "To be consistent, shouldn't you say that someone who is one-eighth white is passing as black?" or "Why is there so much concern, since the so-called blacks who pass take so little negroid ancestry with them?" Those who ask such questions need to realize that "passing" is much more a social phenomenon than a biological one, reflecting the nation's unique definition of what makes a person black. The concept of "passing" rests on the one-drop rule and on folk beliefs about race and miscegenation, not on biological or historical fact...

"The black experience with passing as white in the United States contrasts with the experience of other ethnic minorities that have features that are clearly non-caucasoid. The concept of passing applies only to blacks--consistent with the nation's unique definition of the group. A person who is one-fourth or less American Indian or Korean or Filipino is not regarded as passing if he or she intermarries and joins fully the life of the dominant community, so the minority ancestry need not be hidden. It is often suggested that the key reason for this is that the physical differences between these other groups and whites are less pronounced than the physical differences between African blacks and whites, and therefore are less threatening to whitesHowever, keep in mind that the one-drop rule and anxiety about passing originated during slavery and later received powerful reinforcement under the Jim Crow system...

"...Americans seem unaware that this definition of blacks is extremely unusual in other countries, perhaps even unique to the United States, and that Americans define no other minority group in a similar way. . .

"We must first distinguish racial traits from cultural traits, since they are so often confused with each other. As defined in physical anthropology and biology,races are categories of human beings based on average differences in physical traits that are transmitted by the genes not by blood. Culture is a shared pattern of behavior and beliefs that are learned and transmitted through social communication. An ethnic group is a group with a sense of cultural identity, such as Czech or Jewish Americans, but it may also be a racially distinctive group. A group that is racially distinctive in society may be an ethnic group as well, but not necessarily. Although racially mixed, most blacks in the United States are physically distinguishable from whites, but they are also an ethnic group because of the distinctive culture they have developed within the general American framework. -To view the article in entirety please visit pbs.org

Please, watch this video clip of Mr. Gates' African American Lives 2 and see if it moves you to tears the way it did for me.

Two quotes from this clip stood out to me:

"I think that heritage is so complex, that we have to consider ourselves global, and no human being can be more human than another." -Maya Angelou

"If I'd 'ave known this, it would have taken away the inevitability that I was gonna be nuthin'." -Chris Rock

I want my daughters to know. I want the mystery to be taken away so they can know who they are, where they came from, and be okay with themselves. How I'm going to do that is beyond me. It prompted me to google "ancestry genetic testing". Apparently it costs $99. We have a semi-closed relationship with our daughter's birthmother. She is tough to get in touch with, and requested pictures and no letters. I wonder if she'd be willing to provide a bit more information. Can't hurt to ask.

Some adoptive parents seem to be threatened by their adopted child's birthfamily and/or ancestry. I wish this was never a concern. Words cannot express how beneficial it is for a child to know where they came from. I hope to one day be able to tell my daughters.

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

07 June 2013

Cheerios Ad



When I saw this on TV tears came to my eyes and I thought, "Finally." It's cute, right? Others disagree: "Cheerios Ad Starring Interracial Family Ignites Racist Hate Storm".











Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...