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children portrait: cute girl at playground, looking at camera

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When a Black toddler named Ariyonna was captured on video sobbing after calling herself “ugly,” the hearts of Black women broke across the globe. It was both frightening and saddening to see that society had already successfully convinced a child so small that she was not beautiful. But an extra added layer was the fact that many of us can remember being in her shoes. We can also remember the years of reprogramming and the grueling self-work it took before we started to believe otherwise.

Ariyonna has since received an outpouring of support from the Black community and appears to be learning to love herself after receiving some words of affirmation from her hairdresser. But there are still many Ariyonnas in the world, some of whom may be living in your household, who don’t recognize their worth just yet. It’s on us to instill confidence, pride, and self-esteem in Black girls. Here are ten ways you can do so starting today.

Remove her from emotionally damaging environments

Relatives and friends can inflict long-term damage on your kids if you let them. When loved ones make ignorant statements, either generally or directed at your child, correct them and if they can’t recognize the error of their ways, they should not have access to your daughter. While bullying from outside sources can definitely pose a problem, much of the issues with the way that we see ourselves as Black women and girls come from internal messaging, especially from our elders. Anti-black comments about hair texture and complexion should be checked just as quickly as disparaging comments about weight — both fat shaming and skinny shaming — or facial features.  It’s all problematic. You wouldn’t let a relative physically assault your kid in your presence, the same rules must apply for emotional attacks as well.

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