In This Family We Speak Aloud That We’re Black And We’re Proud
By Debbie King, SUPAFITMAMA
Feb 2, 2018
Race isn’t a daily conversation in our household, but it’s also not one we silence. I don’t always dance and scream it out loud, but make no mistake, I’m black and I’m proud.
I’m concerned my daughter feels that black dolls, and by extension herself, are somehow less. - She Never Wants The Black Doll
On a personal level, the powerful sentiment has, throughout the past year, consciously underscored my approach to raising and empowering my eight-year-old daughter.
Last year in my article, She Never Wants The Black Doll, I shared concerns about my beautiful, black seven-year-old daughter’s preference for Caucasian dolls. In a society where the standard of beauty is dominated by western Caucasian imagery, her choice was deeply troubling.
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It’s been over a year since that initial revelation, and I’m proud of my efforts to encourage conversation, inclusion, critical thinking and self-love in her since.
It quietly speaks volumes when she’s treated by a black woman at our dental centre and instructed by a black woman at piano class.
When she came home from school saddened by the subject of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and death, it prompted a conversation about the hopeful merits of his work, the reality of his violent death and the gravity of what it means to be black in North America.
Being black took on a resounding new reality when we visited Jamaica last summer. There, for the first time, she was surrounded by generations of family and an entire nation of people who shared her skin colour in a multitude of magnificent tones. Though not explicitly expressed, I believe the experience of not being “other” was impactful.
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Back home in Toronto, I introduced her to the powerful works of Rita Cox and classic titles by Ezra Jack Keats, as well as chapter books with black protagonists.
Today, my daughter has graduated from doll play, and begun sketching characters of her own. To my delight, they are coloured in many skin tones from lemon-bar yellow to hot-chocolate brown.
Because the reality is that she lives in a world in which this very post will be met with a mix of empathy, ignorance and hate.
And where her creativity has enthused me, her critical thinking has raised me from my seat. While watching an animated movie together, she, unprompted, acknowledged the rare inclusion of a black character and gave thought to the role attributed. Yes!
With time I’ve seen that she is, in fact, developing her own eight-year-old understanding of racial equality and injustice. It says something when she identifies herself as the only one with “brown skin” in her extracurricular art class, and is informed that her grade three classmate “is afraid of black people."
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Likewise, it quietly speaks volumes when she’s treated by a black woman at our dental centre and instructed by a black woman at piano class. And I believe there’s significance in my switch to a natural hairstyle (versus straightened hair) and her own request for dreadlocks.
I still aim to teach her not to be defined by her race, but to take pride in it as one of the many layers of her identity. Because the reality is that she lives in a world in which this very post will be met with a mix of empathy, ignorance and hate.
And if you’re questioning why I’m still singing this tune, you’ve identified yourself as part of the problem, motivating me to live and parent with even greater love.
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