It’s Black History Month, but make no mistake, we are making history 365 days of the year. For the first time in our country’s history, the Vice President of the United States of America is a black woman. The youngest poet laureate to speak at a presidential inauguration was a black woman. There are black CEOs of fortune 500 companies, black astronauts, news anchors, Olympic athletes, and more. While we still have a LONG way to go as a country, the fact remains, we have come a mighty long way in celebrating, acknowledging, and honoring black people for their contributions to the world.
As a child of the 90s, I didn’t have to look far to see myself in mainstream media. Oprah, Tyra Banks, Queen Latifah, Aunt Viv (both versions lol), Claire Huxtable … the list goes on. We were well represented in prime time media and throughout the entertainment industry. I was blessed to not feel as limited by my blackness as my mother and grandmother.
My mother became a registered nurse because that was the height of success within her culture for her generation. She didn’t give any thought to becoming a physician. It wasn’t a consideration because it wasn’t a norm. Decades later she finished her PhD, and shared that had she seen herself represented in the field, she would have pursued an M.D. instead of a nursing degree. Her mother was a homemaker - a nice way of saying she cleaned other folks homes.
One would think that with programming like “Black Girls Rock,” "Black Panther," and more available today, that I wouldn’t have to worry about fostering healthy esteem in my black children. We’ve had a black president! They should grow up knowing they can be anything, right?!
While I was raised to believe the same, lack of representation in the sciences, law, and even finances made me feel unwelcome in those arenas; and colorism was/still is a BIG deal. It is my goal as a parent for my children to see the sky as their ceiling and their skin tone as a gift, a part of a rich legacy of royalty. This requires intentionality.
So, how am I fostering healthy self esteem in my children?
Their little libraries are filled with books that have illustrations of children that look like them. Click on the links below for a few suggestions if you’re interested in adding books to your little one’s library:
Highlighting beauty in others. This is a big one. A clear indication of healthy self esteem is the ability to acknowledge and celebrate others. When we’re getting ready for our daily routines, I have the kids complement one another. Toddlers especially are prone to compare and be bothered by someone having access to something they don’t have. They want to know and understand why they don’t have “that” (whatever that is) too. By encouraging them to celebrate others, I’m nipping that human tendency in the bud early!
Ex: My two daughters have very different hair textures. One is thick with loose coils, while the other has shorter tight coils. Whenever they’re both getting their hair done they take turns talking about what’s nice about the other’s hair (even if it’s gibberish lol). My older daughter initially would question why her sister had a bow that she didn’t. Whether it’s a bow, hair length, or curl patterns, I want my girls to celebrate what the other has. A candle never loses its spark by lighting another candle. In fact the flame grows brighter.
I’m intentionally teaching them that black history didn’t start with slavery. Imagine being a young child in school (the ONLY black child at that) and every time your race’s history is referenced, it’s in the context of slavery, struggle, discrimination, and hardship. Who wouldn’t feel inferior if that's all you were taught? Black history for my kids starts with the garden of Eden, Samson and his strength, Jesus and his woolly hair, Kings and Queens of Egypt, Mathematicians and Scientists that conceived and built the pyramids and more. I will show them the evidence that Romans and Greeks ventured to Africa to learn from us centuries before Africans were stolen property viewed as savages. My children will learn their history from the context of royalty, not suffering. That alone is a game changer in self perception.
How are you fostering healthy self esteem in your children (especially during black history month)? Share in the comments below!
I’m rooting for you,