Some say like a blackberry.
Today, the growing positive role models for African-American young women are not based on skin tone but on body weight. Even though there is a movement to stop the obesity among our youth—young women who are considered overweight can look up to full-figured celebrities like Oprah, Queen Latifa, Mo’Nique, and Gabourey Sidibe for inspiration. I am happy for this—especially Gabourey Sidibe because she is both a full-figured young woman and a blackberry beauty. But there is still a need for more role models with darker skin tones.
A couple of years ago I worked as a Teaching Artist at an after-school program in a urban middle school, where all the students were African-American and Hispanic. There, I overheard a group of African-American girls talking about how black a fellow classmate was as they walked home. I even heard a chestnut colored young man yell to another young man, who was very dark skinned, “That’s why you’re black and ugly.” Recently, on my Facebook News Feed, a friend posted a comment about how one of her students did not want to be black anymore because being black made her feel ugly. It saddens me that intra-racism and self-hatred is still prevalent among our youth.
As parents, teachers, caregivers, friends, and neighbors, we must do more to help our youth to love thyself. The first step is to stop calling them derogatory names when we reprimand them. I have heard parents and caregivers call a child stupid, idiot, and used profanity as a means to show who is in control. The child, then internalize this and their self-confidence is diminished. Second, we need to show them that we have self-love for ourselves by not accepting being called out of our names and making sure our image is of the positive nature. Because, yes it is true, we are our children’s first teachers. Instead of being the sharp pin that deflates whatever self-love our children has—we should be the enriched air that fills them up with hope and dignity.
In my personal life, my daughters are half Italian. They did not inherit my dark complexion but you know they are half African-American because they have my family’s distinctive broad nose. Being bi-racial, they are going to have to face all kinds of obstacles in their life. They will be labelled and judged by society because of their diverse family background. That’s why I know I have to teach them to be proud of who they are, never think that they are better than someone else, to always respect others, and never to internalize negativity.
Maybe with our extra efforts, our children can accept and project self-love.
Please Read: On My Mind: Colorisms Do Hurt by DuEwa Frazier for the flip side