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
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.
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
for their line of natural hair dolls. These dolls even come with books that teach natural hair care!!!!
You can still preorder at http://healthyrootsdolls.com. Other sources of natural hair dolls include
Madame Alexander (http://www.madamealexander.com/) and Natural Girls United
http://www.naturalgirlsunited.com/. 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
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.
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call me at 347-886-2026. Also subscribe to
https://milestales2013.wordpress.com/ to get more stories that will help you and your loved
ones grow the distance!