How I’m Helping My Daughter Of Colour See A World Of Possibility
BY DEBBIE KING, SUPAFITMAMA
PHOTO © Frenk Kaufmann/123RF
Sep 26, 2018
As a child, I never attended film festivals, met journalists, talked to Olympians or attempted a javelin throw outside city hall. And my Saturdays were never spent roaming galleries, museums or lakeshores. My child, on the other hand, has experienced all of these opportunities, and there’s a deliberate reason why.
... I want my daughter to feel confident stepping into different spaces, be it as part of the majority or being 'other' (as we often are).
I want my little one to see a world of possibility.
My eight-year-old is artistic, curious, virtuous, empathetic and an awesome human. The kind of human who keeps snails as pets, accessorizes like nobody’s business, asks tough questions and isn’t at all sold on capitalism.
My husband and I suspect we’re raising a future artist and/or entrepreneur — either of which is fine by me. I encourage my little one to dream boldly, and wish for her to explore her passions and potential fully.
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At the same time, I know she’ll encounter glass ceilings and muted colour lines that threaten to limit her sense of possibility. She’ll be faced with assumptions and attitudes that misjudge her capabilities and challenge her belonging in certain circles.
Why? Because she’s female. Because she’s black. And particularly, because she is both. I’ve experienced it myself, and see it reflected in all kinds of stats and stories:
- “Women comprise 19.5 per cent of the board members for Canada’s top 500 Companies." (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
- “In the 2015 federal election, 26 per cent of elected officials were women....” (Equal Voice)
- In national and multi-sport organizations, 38 per cent of senior staff are women. (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport)
- Among the 100 top grossing Hollywood films of 2017, less than five per cent of characters and less than six per cent of directors were black. Of the black directors, five were male and one female. (Women and Hollywood)
- In her award-winning essay, “Black on Bay Street," Hadiya Roderique describes the roadblocks she encountered again and again as a person of colour on her way to and since becoming a lawyer.
- In November 2017, the principal of an Ontario school was asked to resign after she “outraged parents and students by compiling a list of black students and circulating it to teachers.”
In place of internalizing or feeling boxed in by negative assumptions and lack of representation, I want my daughter to feel confident stepping into different spaces, be it as part of the majority or being "other" (as we often are). I believe one of the ways to achieve this is with exposure. Exposure to people, places, professions, experiences and events to invite — rather than limit — that sense of possibility.
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It’s the same rationale fuelling organizations like Fast and Female, Girls Inc. and U.S.-based Girls Going Global, which all provide unique opportunities specifically for girls and/or girls of colour.
At the Canadian Sport Film Festival, we watched shorts about Usain Bolt, Harry Jerome and a crew of six-year-old skater girls called the Pink Helmet Posse. That day we also met an Indigenous female filmmaker. My daughter’s interest in javelin was piqued at an Athletics Canada event, and at a CBC event, she rocked at virtual snowboarding before meeting on-air journalist Dwight Drummond. And with every Saturday spent roaming the Royal Ontario Museum or shores of Humber Bay, she takes in life beyond our own inner city limits.
Small or uneventful as they may seem, I know these experiences go a long way in painting a bigger picture. As they say, “You can't be what you can't see.”
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