Are you Affirming Your Black Child In These Five Ways?

I hear the same stories from parents of black children day after day. Their daughters are

expressing the desire to have hair like long straight-haired April in their kindergarten class. These

same girls are fawning over the white skin and long flowing hair on Barbie or Elsa from Frozen.

Boys who look like young Gary Coleman are asking why they don’t look like and have hair like

Jake from from Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Justin from Justin Time. The parents that I

speak to tell me that that they try their best to affirm their children with compliments on their

appearance, but their children are still interested in looking like someone else or being someone

else. I think that teaching our children to love and embrace themselves, their skin, hair, unique

personality, etc. is THE most important lesson to teach. Please watch my

TEDx talk on this topic to understand why.

That said, are you doing the following five things to affirm your black child?

1. Are you leading by example?

Children listen to what you say, but they also observe what you do. If you have naturally kinky or

curly hair that you frequently and consistently straighten with heat/chemical relaxers or that you

cover with straight hair extensions, your children are noticing. They see that you value straight hair

rather than curly or kinky hair and they will do the same. Please consider leading by example by

revealing your beautiful kinks or curls often and celebrating them with your children.

Similarly, around the world, black women are bleaching their skin with harmful hydroquinone

and yet they are shocked when their dark skinned daughters feel ugly. In all cases, we must lead

by example.

South African pop star Mshoza before and after altering her skin.

South African pop star Mshoza before and after altering her skin.

2. Are you complimenting dark skinned and kinky haired children?

Children learn language through you. I know a few African Americans who grew up in Southern

areas where the term “pretty” was almost universally used to describe people with lighter skin and

looser curls. These African Americans can’t bring themselves to call someone with dark skin

and tight kinks “pretty”, regardless of how beautiful that person is, because of the definition that

they learned. As a parent, if you consistently refer to your child’s skin and hair as pretty and

you compliment black children of all shades and textures, your child will learn that black is

beautiful in every shade and texture.

3. Have you purchased black kinky and curly haired dolls for your children?

Dolls are powerful because they are physical representations of human beings. According to

doll collector Debra Britt, slave masters knew the power of dolls and forbade enslaved African

American children from playing with black dolls.  A topsy turvy doll with one white head and one

black head was invented so that the enslaved children could play with white dolls in public, but then

admire their own reflections by playing with the black doll sides when they were no longer under the

slave master’s watchful eyes.

Topsy Turvy Doll

Topsy Turvy Doll

Additionally, the historic “doll test” by Kenneth and Mamie Clark and the reenactments of it done

by Kiri Davis and CNN also demonstrate the importance of affirming our children through dolls.

These tests demonstrate that children overwhelmingly have been taught to associate negative traits

with darker skin tones.

Thankfully there are a number of dolls out there with kinky and curly hair. One such doll pioneer is

the company Healthy Roots.  Healthy Roots recently completed a successful kickstarter  campaign

for their line of natural hair dolls. These dolls even come with books that teach natural hair care!!!!

You can still  preorder at   Other sources of natural hair dolls include

Madame  Alexander ( and Natural Girls United  I have purchased several black male action figures of the WWF

variety.  I am still looking for emerging companies with a variety of black male action figures.

4. Do you show your children animated series with black kinky and curly haired main


As much as I and other parents would like to cut down on screen time, the convenience of

having kids quietly watching a show while parents can attend to pressing work or household

matters is just so so appealing. But, an Indiana University Study shows that television exposure

makes all children except white boys, feel worse about themselves. The researchers believe this is

the case because of the dearth of affirming non white male characters on television.

That said, is important to show children affirming and empowering images.  I try to make sure that

when my kids watch TV on weekends, they are watching cartoons like

Little Bill and Bino and Fino, in addition movies like Garrett’s Gift.

5. Do you purchase and read books with kinky and curly haired lead characters for your


As the author of Sunne’s Gift, a children’s book and fable

that honors afro-textured hair while promoting the lesson that there is beauty and power

in difference, I am passionate about affirming children’s books. Finding diverse

animation is tough, but finding diverse books is relatively easier. Sunne’s Gift

is a great start. Other books with inspiring message about hair

and appearance to consider include, I Love My Hair by

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, Bippity Bop Barbershop

by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. Jamie Loves Her Natural Hair by Ariane Roberts is a

good book for girls who wear their hair in both kinky/curly and straight styles because it

discusses what happens when a straight style gets wet.

Sunne's Gift

Sunne’s Gift

I hope that this list was helpful to you. If you want to chat about this topic or you would like me

to speak at a school, church, conference, or other venue, please email me at  You can also call me at 347-886-2026. Also subscribe to to get more stories that will help you and your loved

ones grow the distance!

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