Yesterday, August 19th, my daughter turned 5 months old (see the above picture of her). It's amazing how time flies, I feel like I just took that picture 2 months ago, that I just announced to you guys that I was pregnant and talked about how things may change with my newsletter. Some months have been easier than others to get my newsletter out to you guys (this month being a tough one), but I'm determined to CONTINUE writing to you all because culture is truly my passion. I really do live and breathe this stuff, and I get pure joy from providing others cultural insight.
Since being a mom, it seems like my cultural antennas are extra raised and sensitive. I've always noticed what I will talk with you about today, but now I REALLY notice it. Don't worry my newsletters aren't going to turn into a mom blog, and I'm not going to become that mom who only talks about her baby. BUT, keep in mind that cultural awareness starts very young, as Alex Haley once said: "racism is taught in our society, it is not automatic, it is a learned behavior. . ." I agree with this statement 100 percent. Because racist, privileged, and prejudice beliefs start at such a young age; I would be remiss if I simply shied away from this topic for fear of being viewed as "that mom talking about her baby again." With that said, I encourage you to read this newsletter even if you are NOT a parent, because most likely you are an Aunt, Uncle, God Parent, Friends with someone who has kids, or simply in a profession where you work closely with children. So today's newsletter is important even to the person who is not a parent.
Have you ever stopped and paid attention to baby advertisements and products? Like really. Have you REALLY paid attention to them? Think about it for a second. I'll wait. . .
How often do you see a baby of color? I don't mean the random Black baby in the middle of a bunch of White babies. And no, I don't mean the one Asian baby on that certain box of diapers. I mean how often do you CONSISTENTLY see babies of color being advertised or on baby packaging? I began to really think about this when I started purchasing things for my daughter. Books that I wanted to buy (or check out at the library) were/are full of images of White families. Books geared towards parenting tips have White babies on the cover. The boxes that house her diapers? Mostly White babies. The packaging that her teething ring came in? You guessed it, a White baby. And of course I can go on and on, but you get the point and hopefully you consider this a major problem just like I do.
Some people may not see this as a big problem because of the myth that babies don't REALLY have awareness of race yet. But that is such a WRONG belief. Images are the primary way babies interpret information. Think about it. Babies are fascinated with colors, patterns, and textures. That's how they explore the world, mostly through what they see. So if I'm reading my daughter a book that only has images of a White little girl or a White family (which y'all know I ain't doing), what does that tell her about her Blackness?
If my Black daughter is surrounded by images of White children and families, and it's like looking for a needle in a haystack to find decent images of Black babies (and other babies of color), what is she going to learn about her Blackness? Will she internalize that it's beautiful, unique, and wonderfully bold? Or will she internalize that her Blackness is difficult to come by, hard to find, the minority? It all depends on what my husband and I surround her with inside the comforting walls of our home, because unfortunately as my husband so eloquently put it the other night "her being surrounded by Blackness and people that love her simply because she's a pretty Black girl is a fairytale." My response to him? "I know right? It's not her reality."Which leads me to my ideas about how we can all work within the reality that babies of color seem to be forgotten.
#1 - Navigate through the reality
You see no matter how many Black books I buy my daughter, she will eventually be conscious of the world she is in. A world that is prejudice, that will stereotype her, and that will inevitably treat her differently. Yeah it sucks to write those words, and I'm sure it sucks for some of you reading those words, but it's the truth. My daughter has already experienced very subtle forms of discrimination.
The other day a White woman said to her: "you're such a cute little puppet." I glared at the woman and I said "what?" She immediately realized the inappropriateness of her comment, began stuttering and mustered up the words to correct herself saying "you're so cute." The puppet comment may mean nothing to some of you readers, but the fact of the matter is that for years we as Black people have been viewed as objects, not human beings. This fact, this historical trauma, made my glare justified. And the glare alone was all that was needed to nonverbally correct this white woman. She may have meant no harm, but that's the problem, they never do.
So, it is important for us to learn to navigate the reality we are in. To not allow subtle inappropriate actions to simply pile up on our babies and in their psyche. We have to realize the reality we are in, and in order to navigate through it, we must be intentional. Leading me to my next point
#2 - Be intentional with the CHILD's Reality
Because so many advertisements and product packaging consist of White babies, it's important to INTENTIONALLY look for ads and packaging that represent our babies of color. I have been intentional in reading my daughter books that have images of Black children and families. I have also been intentional on finding books that include White, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Middle Eastern children and families. Why? Because as much as I would like her to, she isn't growing up in a dominantly Black society. She is growing up in a diverse society that is not White dominate (contrary to popular belief). I want her to know the beauty in her Blackness and the beauty in the diversity of the society she lives in.
I say all that to say be intentional about the items you pick out for the children in your life. Do the books and pictures you expose them to reflect who THEY are? Do you grab the baby wipes with a White baby on it or if you happen to have an option grab the ones with a baby of color? How are you being intentional in making sure the things you expose children to are reflective of who they are AND the world they actually live in. Which again is not predominantly White, leading me to my final point for today. . .
#3 - Don't sugar coat societal realities
Sugar coating is a disadvantage to our babies of color. They need to be very clear of the world they live in as early as they can be, at the level in which they can understand. For me, I have made a decision to begin correcting people when they make inappropriate comments about my baby. Because that will ingrain in her that she is worthy and that her Blackness should be respected at all times. I've also made a conscious decision to allow her to be in the presence of conversations around race and privilege, not to taint her but to prepare and empower her.
I want her to know that although the society she will live in may still present as very White driven (hopefully times will change by then), that this country and this WORLD is full of color! I want her to know the truth that she is not the minority, but rather part of the majority, despite the lies that society may try and sell. I will protect her from racism and prejudice when I can, but most importantly I will prepare her. And by preparing her, I am giving her the privilege to internalize very early on that her Black is beautiful ALL THE TIME. Until September. . .