Featured Image: @thejonescru
Article By: Samantha Matthews
Raising a black child in America to be self-loving is becoming more difficult all the time. Black people, in general, are significantly underrepresented in so many areas of American society, and also are often villanized or otherwise largely ignored in many forms of media. Black children are growing up wondering where they fit in a country where people who look like them do not seem to matter in society at all.
It may seem that the odds are greatly stacked against black parents who wish to nurture self-love into their children, but even though it might be an uphill battle, it is still entirely possible to raise proud, self-confident, and self-loving black children, and these five tips can serve as a strong foundation for black parents to raise self-loving kids.
1. Teach Them Their History
This tip is vitally important in raising self-loving black children. However, this task is now primarily thrust on the shoulders of the parents as many public schools do not give detailed accounts of the history of melanated people. Slavery is glossed over in many history books, so black children do not grow up learning much about the history of their race including the injustices and challenges our ancestors had to overcome, as well as the sacrifices our ancestors made in the past so that we as the black race can enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Black children must be taught to think about their ancestors with pride and understand they come from a long line of not just slaves, but warriors, soldiers, inventors, artists, overcomers. Since schools aren’t accommodating in this area, parents need to make sure their kids learn about black history. The internet is a great source to find endless articles and books about black history, and many black churches provide lessons in black history. Knowing where one came from will create a better sense of self in our black children. This helps significantly in the nurturing of self-acceptance, pride, and self-love in them.
2. Make Sure They Know Their Roots (Not Just the Mini-Series!)
Knowing general black history is the first step, but to instill a stronger sense of self-love in children, they must also know their family roots so they will have something personal to be proud of. White Americans seem to always take pride in talking about the accomplishments of their grandparents and great-grandparents, telling stories such as how their relatives left everything in Europe to come to America and start over, etc. Black children need these stories, too. Sit your children down and tell them about your childhood. When they go to see grandma and grandpa, have them also sit your kids down and tell them about their childhood, their family, friends, and occupations, how they learned, played, and spent their free time .when they were your children’s age.
It always amazed and enthralled me as a child to listen to my 104-year-old great-aunt Ruth tell me that when she was four years old, her uncle told her his experience of coming to America on a “big boat over the sea.” My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a first generation freed slave, and one of the only black men in Plano Texas that did sharecropping work successfully and ended up helping to feed his entire neighborhood.
I grew up with a strong sense of pride knowing these things about my relatives and how they contributed to society, and it made me love my personal history, family, and myself even more, as I know that I come from a line of great people who contributed to society. If you don’t know your family history and have no older relatives, consider doing a DNA ancestry test so your kids can learn which African country they have roots in, and then have them learn about that country and its customs. Understanding one’s family roots are necessary to create stronger self-love in our black children.
3. Make Sure Your Children Have A Variety of Black Role Models
Lebron James, Beyonce, and Idris Elba are, of course, all wonderful, talented people, and it’s perfectly okay for your children to be fans of them. But black people in our amazingly rich history in the United States have done so many more things than dunk a basketball, cranked out hit records, and shined in front of the camera. In order to instill self-love in black children, they should know about black people who have excelled in various professions and industries that they can look up to and say, “I can do that, too!” For example, Iddris Sandu, a Los Angeles based mobile software developer is the genius behind the algorithms that every Uber, Instagram, and Snapchat user can be thankful for today. And this young black man is only 21 years old.
Sandu and other black coders, inventors, doctors, and judges that regularly contribute to our society are the types of role models that the spotlight should be placed on. In all honesty, only a tiny percentage of black children will ever make the NBA, a hit record or a blockbuster film, but all should learn how black people just like themselves can thrive in a variety of different fields. Good role models will help black children broaden their minds about choosing a profession as they get older and it also teaches kids that black people can thrive in any field. Having a role model that looks like them will encourage pride, self-confidence, and most importantly, self-love in children.
4. Never, Ever, EVER Comment Negatively About Your Children’s Hair Texture or Skin Color ( Don’t Let Your Relatives Do It Either!)
There is probably nothing that can destroy a child’s ability to be self-loving more than a parent or a relative who regularly makes negative comments about a child’s skin tone or hair texture. Children are already being bombarded with messages in the media that darker skin and kinky hair are not considered attractive, even by certain members of their race. The last thing children need is to have relatives reinforce the negative messages about their appearance that they see every day in the media and society. Teach your kids that their skin is beautiful, no matter the color, and instead of calling your child’s hair nappy to tell them instead that black hair is so magical it literally defies gravity.
Speak up immediately if relatives make negative comments about your child’s hair or skin. Refuse to allow such talk in your and your children’s presence. Black children need to grow up believing that their appearance is 100% natural and healthy. If they are raised believing this, it will be easy for them to learn to be self-accepting and self-loving.
5. Explain to Your Child How Societal Beliefs Influence The Media
This is probably one of the most important things a parent can do to make sure their children grow up to love themselves. As a child, I always used to watch COPS with my family and one day I asked my father why most of the people arrested on that show were black, and why there were so many black criminals compared to white criminals. My father explained how all of the TV networks were owned by a handful of rich owners, the majority of whom were not people of color and many represented a part of society who are prejudiced against blacks and they use their networks to paint us as a race in a bad light.
He told me that there were many criminals of every race, but TV networks choose to show black criminals to influence society to think negatively about black people. From that point on, I stopped believing everything I saw on TV, and I also stopped thinking negatively about myself or my race from what I saw on television. Parents need to teach their children that most of what they see on TV are messages being sent from a part of society that often does not have the best interests of minority groups in mind, and this is why racial stereotypes continue to exist.
Black children should be taught to question society and the media– not themselves– for why society views them in a certain way, and when children understand that the problem does not stem from them or their race, but instead a systematically racist society, they will learn to seek acceptance from their family, community, and most importantly, themselves, and this self-acceptance will lead to self-love.
If black communities in America are not only to survive but thrive, black children need to be raised knowing who they are, where they come from, and how they can learn to understand the society where they live. Teaching our children to be self-loving is imperative if we wish to break the cycle of self-hate that is affecting too many young people in our black communities.
Sami Van Mathis is a freelance writer and editor from San Francisco, CA, and has recently published her first science fiction book, The Adventures of Rebel Spencer: Book One: The Unexpected Voyage. She also keeps a personal travel blog: Musings of a Wandering teacher as well as runs a travel/fashion Youtube channel: Boutique a Week International. She also has taught English for 14 years and has lived in 5 different countries.