Raising young girls has to be a great challenge. We want to raise them to be confident, fearless and protect them from a culture that wishes to keep them silent. But an incident that occurred at my school recently made me question how we are raising them to treat one another.
At the start of the day, I was approached by a student. She fell into my arms asking if I thought her hair was ugly and bursts into tears. I was in shock because most of her hair was beautifully pinned up into a neat ball and the rest flowed down her back. I quickly affirmed the beauty of her hair to her. I asked her why she thought her hair was ugly. Her response troubled me. She was talking to a friend on Face Time who told her that her hair was ugly. This escalated quickly when this friend had other peers go along with it. We talked, I loved on her hair some more but she was still uncomfortable going back to class. She believed so strongly what these “friends” told her that she was now going to risk losing instructional time by not attending class.
We took the elevator to my room because she didn’t want to take the stairs. Once there, she informed me which friend started the teasing. I knew this particular student very well so I had her join us. I asked her to tell me what was going on. At first, I could tell that she was avoiding something. But then she told me that she did say something negative about her friend’s hair. I asked, “Beloved, why do you feel it is okay to hurt your friend in that way?” She stared at me and didn’t give an answer. I repeated the question. She then said that she was only playing. She knew I wasn’t buying it.
Eventually, she broke down crying and said she didn’t know why she did it. She added that she got treated like that by other girls. I asked a follow up question, “When these girls talk about you, how does it make you feel?” She said, “Not good.” So, I asked how she thought giving her friend the same treatment made her feel. Her response, “I’m sure not good.” That was a start. I affirmed her in that moment because she needed to be affirmed as well. I let her know that she was beautiful and that she didn’t deserve to feel otherwise. With that, I urged her not to hurt others because she felt bad about herself. I shared with them the importance of uplifting one another; especially as young black women. I told them that one of the secrets to being beautiful is making other people feel beautiful as well. I felt that the exchange went well, but my dear beloved still wasn’t ready to face her peers.
This occurrence made me wonder how we as a culture are raising our daughters. Many of them are compromising themselves due to another person’s opinion. This world is tough enough on us already; pitting us against one another: Light Skinned vs. Dark Skinned, Natural Hair vs. Relaxed Hair, and Bare Face vs. Beat Face. For this reason, along with many others, it is imperative to raise our young queens to see queens in others.
There’s a saying, “A queen doesn’t step down to address peasants.” I used to be a fan of this quote but now I find it very disheartening because it goes back to how we view each other. We can’t bring girls up believing they’re queens and everyone else is peasants. If I’m honest, I’ve never met a peasant, only a queen who has yet to realize she is a queen. Queens see queens in others. This is what I hope we are teaching our daughters. Instilling in them that they are queens and so is every girl they encounter in their life. What we already know and what we should teach our Black daughters is that every girl who looks like them is fighting a similar battle. They too are already being judged and labeled. They’re also going to have to work just as hard for that scholarship or for that dream job. Our daughters should know that attacking their fellow girls is not going to make their journey any easier. It’s not going to help them earn that degree, get that promotion, or get that love interest they want. Are we uplifting our daughters enough so that they don’t feel threatened by another’s presence? Are we teaching them that they are just as beautiful as the next girl and to be confident enough to reign with others? Are we encouraging them to be kind enough to pick up another queen’s crown and place it on her head? Or are we teaching them that they have to compete with one another?
Moms, maybe you are struggling with self-love and this makes it hard to teach to your daughter. They say what isn’t healed is passed down. Maybe you don’t affirm your daughter because you can’t affirm yourself. Or is it the opposite? Perhaps you put your daughter on this pedestal in an effort to live vicariously through her because you were bullied and belittled at her age. Dear parents, let me tell you this: Every time your daughter goes to school or anywhere and tears another girl down, it’s because she doesn’t feel worthy. It doesn’t matter how pretty she looks, it’s all about how she feels. Let’s encourage our daughters to love. Let’s teach them to be love and to be a light. Edify them so that they will inspire and encourage others. Moms, love yourself unconditionally first and then you can give your daughters that same love. Guess what happens next? They then love other daughters unconditionally too. This can be the start to breaking this generational curse of self-hate amongst African American women. We can do this! You can do this! Save our daughters!
Deborah J is a survivor, advocate and storyteller. Her motivations are to give a voice to those who are voiceless and to bring awareness on hidden social issues. She is a mother of one.