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)

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