To be black and a woman is one of the most complex identities to hold–no matter how magical and powerful we know we are. But this is no secret. This is something we’ve had to battle with for hundreds of years. Today as we straddle the celebration of a major accomplishment for women with the first woman to lead a major political party and coming to terms that another black woman has died at the hands of that very same government, it’s clear the fight is far from over. Being a magical black girl is hard. And that’s why it’s important now more than ever to instill confidence, knowledge, and empower our young black daughters. Here’s a few ways we can start.
1. Give her space to learn about herself. Too many times our society likes to put all kinds of people, but especially black girls into a box. So many rules about how we should or should not act. What we should or should not believe. What we’re allowed or not allowed to do. Far too often that leads to black girls growing up to become black women who don’t know who they are or what their beliefs are. Give your black daughter room to learn what she truly enjoys and what she doesn’t. Allow her the room to develop her personal taste, style, and things she likes to do. This will help your black daughter stand confident in who she is as she goes through this world.
2. Be honest with her. I know as parents it’s easy to want to shield our children from the negativity and darkness of this world. But there’s a difference between protecting their innocence and promoting naïveté. The truth is, our black daughters will be facing a unique set of challenges, obstacles, and judgements that no other girls will and it’s our job to be honest about those things. When she asks you the tough questions, it’s our job to give the true tough answers. This will help prepare your black daughter and arm her with knowledge.
3. Always speak positively towards her. So many people underestimate the power of words. When you speak positively, you naturally feel more positive. When it comes to your black daughter you always want to be speaking from a place that is uplifting. Whether that’s a comment about her beautiful kinky hair or her awesomely creative mind. If you condition your black daughter to hear that she is great, that’s exactly what she’ll be.
4. Show her representations of herself. One of the most important things we can do as mothers is to show our children representations of themselves doing amazing things. It’s easy to fall into the trap of watching mainstream television and not seeing our little girls represented or when they are, they’re displayed in a negative light. Or to visit a library and see countless books that conveniently leave out black girl characters. But, if our daughters aren’t constantly seeing themselves doing amazing things, it sends a message that they aren’t expected to be amazing. Make the extra effort to expose her to books, media, and people that look like her.
5. Listen to her. Too often when black girls are vocal, it gets painted negatively. We’ve all experienced, whether firsthand or as a witness, the stigma of “loud” black girls. Let’s not pass that on to our black daughters. Listen to what they have to say. Allow them to speak up on things that they are excited about or that bother them. This will help your black daughter know that her voice matters and that what she has to say is important.