Today my daughter recounted her day at school. She is one of two Black kids in her entire school. Parenthetically, it is a tough trade-off to send your child to a school with few if any Black students so that s/he can get a better education at the expense of hearing your daughter say that she wishes she had long hair like the White girls. Standards of beauty are important, and a Black child attending a predominately White school faces some serious challenges. See Beverly Tatum’s Assimilation Blues for an interesting and scholarly account of some of the challenges Black parents and their children face.
One of the little White kids proclaimed,
Why don’t you cover your arms up cuz no one wants to see your black skin?
As a parent, I spend a good amount of my time just correcting the misinformation that
my kids receive from their peers and the crappy school books from which they are taught.
As a Black parent, I spend a great deal of my time ensuring that my children have positive self-images by which they can feel good about themselves without having to put anyone else down. This requires that I constantly address my daughter as “my pretty little girl…” and my “smart little girl.” I have similar greetings for my son. I don’t judge your preferences, but statements like the one above are further motivation for me to only be with Black women. I need for my daughter to see that she is beautiful and that her father can only be found with women who reflect the beauty that she has.
Now, I’ve been known to slap a sour taste bud from the mouth of a person who mistakingly thought that it was cool to disrespect my children. In this case, I reminded my princess of the richness of her natural beauty–a natural beauty that is envied and surgically paid for by women who look like the little girl who put her down.
It is the everyday mundane nature of racism that is so stressful. Consider all that I must do just to ensure that my kids can love themselves. Consider what my children must handle on a daily basis. Consider that the little White girl who made that comment is by no means an aberration, and she surely learned it from someone. She chose a statement that she expected to be hurtful, and she could only have the expectation if she had learned that from someone. That no other children came to my daughter’s defense (something children often do when they see an injustice), justified the White girl’s statement.
We certainly need to change how we are defining “progress” when we are speaking about racial progress.