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Our Culture, Our Children

Updated: Jun 26

Black culture is as vast as it is deep. It is full of nuance, creativity, gestures, inside jokes, and understood norms and rules. To outsiders, culturally bound expressions of Blackness may be misunderstood. But to insiders, there exists an understanding that transcends communities, regions, states, and even countries. Culture has long remained a protective factor for Black individuals and communities. It has kept us together, kept our hope intact, and has been a safe place to express joy and share stories. Unfortunately, it is this very culture that is often under attack.

Consider the Crown Act, a policy that legislates natural hairstyles, given that hair discrimination is legal in over half of US states. Bear in mind that most hairstyles targeted are those worn by Black individuals. I remember watching the video of 16-year-old Andrew Johnson, an African American boy who was forced to have his locs cut off in front of a crowd just so he could participate in his wrestling match. I remember being livid and feeling deep pain witnessing this event as I felt this child’s person was completely violated.

I also think about the countless Black girls and women who experience hair discrimination at school, work, and other settings (see Locs, Wigs, & Everything in Between: Black Women/Girls, Trauma & Emotional Well-Being) daily and the impact it has on their mental health, esteem, and identity. This toll is costly and, unfortunately, long-lasting. However, we continue to thrive, succeed, and accomplish.

Parents (mothers, fathers, other mothers, and fathers) are uniquely situated to be caring comforters for their children and fierce advocates.  We do not have to stand on the sidelines witnessing and vicariously experiencing their pain. We can prepare our children, prevent certain discriminatory incidents, and provide support and resources.

Prepare our Children

As I stated earlier, our culture has been a protective factor, and part of preparing our children is educating them about their culture and working to instill pride in them. Ensure your children engage with content that teaches them about their culture and include them in culture-centered events. Encourage cultural ways of expression and compliment them often. In the book, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, the author tells his daughter that if someone calls her hair nappy, the only correct response is thank you. This type of advice prepares our children for what they may face, and it affirms their being.

Preventing Discriminatory Incidents

As parents, we are our children’s first advocates. Thus, active involvement in the spaces they inhabit is necessary. Become familiar with their schools (teachers, staff, administrators), coaches, and leaders. Ask questions about ways culture is infused in curriculum, programming, and celebrations. And if the opportunity to provide education and correction arises, offer it. Now, parents are busy, so I encourage you to lean on the community. Last year I attended my niece’s parent-teacher conference, and in one of the classes, the teacher had all of these pictures of famous people with inspirational quotes. At the end of his overview, I said, “I love these quotes, but I notice everyone on these walls is white, but your class is diverse.” Of course he said he didn’t realize that and would be sure to change that.

Provide Support and Resources

Parents can’t be everywhere, all the time. So it is important to have a toolbox ready to support our children’s healthy growth, development, and overall well-being. These supports and resources can include counseling for our children, recommending CRESTSprogram to train at your child’s school, or even community organizations like churches or the local Boys and Girls Club. The point is to be knowledgeable and prepared to support your children. And if you need support, remember to lean on the community or reach out to us!

Helpful Resources:

Concept Papers


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