Dr. Ernest Levister
So much is written about the plight of young black males, and it is true that our sons are endangered in ways no other group of young people is. But young Black girls also face a mountain of challenges in today’s society: doing well in school, fitting in with peers, finding their place in the world. They also face some serious social challenges – sexual pressure, drugs, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, physical and verbal abuse – that can alter the very course of their lives.
Fostering a healthy sense of self is one of the most important jobs for parents who are raising African American girls. The challenge of raising strong Black daughters is that people have expectations on how Black women are – aggressive, loud, that they walk through the world with a chip on their shoulder.
It’s really hard to raise daughters knowing that that’s the way that some people are going to look at them. So there’s a balance that you have to strike between letting them know that it’s okay to be strong and it’s okay to voice your opinion, but there’s a way to do that that will make other people comfortable, that will help you to get your point across without people having to lean on a stereotype to dismiss your opinions and dismiss who you are.
Black girls often worry about their physical attractiveness, and many aspects of our society do not validate Black girls’ looks. Even within our own communities, we’re still struggling with stereotypes about skin tone and hair texture. And you also hear, “She’s pretty for a dark skinned girl.”
Support your daughter’s development and exploration of her own character and opinions. Black girls should be encouraged to place a high value on being accepted and respected for their individual qualities and they should not feel that they need to apologize for their strengths. They must also know that their worth and self-concept must be determined by them, not by anyone else.
Positive parenting can do much to offset the influences within mainstream expectations, media and our own culture. It’s helpful for girls period, but specifically for little Black girls who may be misunderstood or treated in a different way because of the color of their skin.