Teaching Young Black Girls How to Celebrate Self — Laurel Handfield
Black is beautiful sounds good, but do black women truly believe this, especially when the world constantly tells us differently? I get it, it’s politically correct for us to say how strong and resilient we are…and we are, but we, too, get tired sometimes. We get tired of defending ourselves against a society that wants to kick us down every time we make the conscious decision to be strong.
Recently, in the news, a well-known female rapper commented that she was lucky to have gotten her mom’s “good hair” instead of her father’s “nappy” hair. For a young girl that has that “nappy” hair, how is she supposed to feel about that comment? The first instinct is to get angry at this young female rapper because of her comments, but she’s only speaking her truth. As a black girl in the 70s and 80s, my mom sizzled my hair from the roots to the end with a hot comb every month. I remember getting my first relaxer at the age of ten. My sister, who has straighter, softer hair, received praise for her texture, while I got the, What happened to her hair? looks from relatives. I don’t think the black community was surprised by the young rapper’s comments. I think we were more appalled that she actually spoke the thoughts that most of us had at some point. So, here’s the question; how do we teach our girls to be proud of their features, skin color, and hair texture, when there’s so many of us that aren’t feeling it ourselves?
I no longer get frustrated when comments of self-loathing surface in the media. Instead, I use it as a teachable moment that has nothing to do with physical features because it’s much more than that. Remove the specifics in this equation and the bottom line is self-hatred. Self-hatred comes in many forms, including hair texture (as with the example above), but it also comes in the form of weight, skin color, facial features and so much more. Older adults are not immune either. How many times do we tell our daughters to be proud of who they are yet turn around and start another diet because we want to fit into a smaller dress size? How many times do we compare our daughters to their classmates, cousins, whomever, and push them to do things to be more like others? Teaching young girls to celebrate themselves begins and ends with you. We want our children to think for themselves and not rely on the media to tell them who they are.
You and I may know that our beauty is wonderful and should be celebrated like all other beauty. However, some of our younger generations are still grappling with this notion, so don’t judge. Give them time. Teach and encourage them that regardless of what is being fed to them via social media, they are beautiful, inside and out. Do this as early as possible, because, for every word of encouragement you give, there are countless negative images ready to tear them down. Give your daughter something previous generations did not necessarily have, and that’s a strong foundation that encourages them to celebrate their beauty.
Laurel Handfield is the owner and creator of Happy Island Press, a publisher that creates coloring/activity books for children of color. Her work has been featured in Highlights for Children magazine, and the award-winning apps Farfaria.com and Readabilitytutor.com, To date, she has written over 50 children’s stories.
A vacation to the islands turned into an unexpected romance when she met and fell in love with her now-husband. After two years in a long-distance relationship, she decided to move to the Bahamas permanently and continue her writing.
Today, she still calls the Bahamas home and enjoys the laid-back island life with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
Be sure to connect with Laurel on LinkedIn and follow Happy Island Press on Facebook and Instagram. Then check out Happy Island Press’ black and brown girl’s empowerment coloring and activity books on Amazon.