Deeper Than Twerking: For Parents of Little Black Girls, Hold Off On The Whoopings And Try Open And Honest Communication First
I understand that frustration, disbelief and even rage aren’t foreign emotions for parents. I know because I have a mother who didn’t pull any punches. I can empathize with parents because though I wasn’t as bad as many of the kids I grew up with – I was NOT an easy child to deal with.
Where my concern increases is when it comes to black girls. We’re quick to beat them, ground them, and punish them for their behavior or acting out, sometimes (most horrifyingly) in suggestive ways, but my question is this: How often do we talk to them?
In the 2nd grade, I was dared to write a dirty love letter to a kid in my class. Being the Billy Jean Bad A** that I was, I did it with no qualms. Never dreamed that the kid I wrote it to would give the letter to my teacher who then called my mother. How embarrassing for my mother to get THAT call about her pig-tailed daughter. Best believe I got a whoopin’ when I got home that day.
The embarrassment and subsequent anger of being confronted with your 2nd grade daughter’s rather sophisticated and graphic version of a love letter has to be through the roof. But the fear in wondering where she could have possibly learned all of this has to be even greater. And so, although my mother did ask why I wrote it, I couldn’t give any kind of soul-bearing answer at that age so she truly believed a good slap (or 15) on the butt would set me straight. It did, sort of. I never wrote anything like that again. But all the things leading to that love letter wouldn’t be discussed and a healing process wouldn’t begin until I was 22 years old. That’s a long time to be walking around with insecurity, shadows of bad memories, and emotional trauma you can’t quite work out no matter how many church services you go to or journals you fill.
So, when I saw the story of the girls who were beat for creating a twerk video, I understood both sides. I understood that the video they created was only a symptom of much deeper insecurity they’re dealing with. I understood their father’s anger, because as many of my male friends have expressed to me, where daughter’s are concerned, the black father’s role, in their mind, is to keep their daughter(s) off the pole. So I understood, but I grieved as well. I grieved for the root that was planted in those young ladies’ minds that caused them to believe popping their butts on camera would bring them admiration, respect, or love. I grieved for a father who never wanted this for his daughters, but who acted out of rage and embarrassment more than out of love. I grieved for the society that praises black women for being voluptuous but not for being value-based. But more than anything, I grieved for the generational curse of non-communication we face as a race.
While my mother and I have built an amazing relationship over the past few years, she’s been honest with me in saying that there were always things she never wanted to discuss with my sister and me, for fear that she would put the wrong ideas in our heads. I asked if she had had a communicative childhood with her parents and she told me that she hadn’t, not really. While there was unconditional love, communication wasn’t as free-flowing. I now see the pattern that had plagued not only my family but today plagues millions of families nationwide. The Internet and the media are a big machine. Our children are small wonders getting caught in that soul-crushing grind before they even get a chance to know and love themselves.
While I do believe physical discipline (not abuse) within reason and administered out of LOVE can be useful in parenting, open and honest communication MUST always be our first line of defense. There is a WORLD of things beyond a child’s comprehension and emotional maturity that young people are dealing with nowadays. If they can’t know that they have a safe space to express themselves with their own parents, where will they go and to whom will they run for affirmation?
La Truly writes to encourage and catalyze thought, discussion and positive change among young women. She is a contributor to MadameNoire. Follow La on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and AboutMe http://www.about.me/latruly.