How Do You Teach Kids to Love Their Culture?
“Say it Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!” I know you’ve heard this James Brown song from back in the day. Gone are the days of the revolutionary black pride movement of the sixties. Today’s world is all about celebrating multiculturalism. With our children attending schools that reflect the melting pot of America and living in neighborhoods as diverse as the rainbow, there’s no need to emphasize race pride anymore, right? Wrong!
Although African-American children today have more opportunities than their ancestors could have dreamed of, many children still struggle with being proud of their racial heritage. I’m sure you’ve heard of the black doll tests of the 1940s where black children repeatedly preferred white dolls instead of dolls that looked like them. Well, these same tests were repeated in 2006 as part of the documentary “A Girl Like Me” . Sadly, the results were the same. I’ve experienced this firsthand when I heard my daughter express how much she wanted her black, curly hair to be straight and blonde like her classmate’s hair. Say what?!?!
I began to wonder if I was doing enough to build cultural pride in my daughter. But how does a mom build cultural pride while teaching her child to value the contributions of other cultures as well? Here are several methods that I’ve started incorporating into our family routine to achieve this goal:
• Purchase toys that celebrate our heritage. My daughter has blonde dolls, but she also has dolls that reflect the rich hues of African-Americans from café au lait to rich ebony. I discuss with her the beauty and uniqueness of each doll. And there are organizations out there to help moms like me. Both Pretty Brown Girl and The Black Doll Affair focus on building self-esteem in little girls of color by equipping them with dolls that reflect their unique beauty.
• Connect the dots. I like to point out to my daughter the cultural ties that bind us to our ancestral home — Africa. Whether that’s our braided hairstyle, the food that we eat like yams and collard greens, or the rhythm of the hip-hop music that she loves, I try to help her connect the dots of our heritage and legacy.
• Encourage transcultural learning. My daughter is learning to love other cultures by experiencing them through friends from different backgrounds. I’ve encouraged her Filipino babysitter to teach her a few words in her native tongue and she is curious about the cultural traditions of our Scottish neighbors. I always point out that she also comes from a fascinating culture with a rich heritage. And now I’m starting to encourage her to share her own African-American traditions with her friends.
Our children may not still sing “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, but there’s no reason why we can’t help them sing this tune in their hearts.
How are you creating cultural pride among your little ones?