Raising a dark-skinned black girl has to be done with more than just good intention, but with careful thought and conscious effort. The objective is to raise a girl that, despite society’s underappreciation of her and her skin tone, has a good understanding of her immense worth and is equipped with the tools to navigate the world to her advantage. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
1. Compliment Her Dark Skin
This may seem obvious, but many parents attempt to combat colorism by ignoring darker skin and light skin in an effort to make them seem the same. The problem with this, is it isn’t a corrective solution, a solution that actively corrects the issue of colorism. You need to counter the media’s influence and to do this you’re going to have to work extra hard to make sure she associates dark skin with beauty. According to Oprah.com, when African American psychologists were asked how best to raise dark-skinned girls to love their skin, they responded with the following advice:
For children between the ages of 3-6: Refer to your child as beautiful and surround them with stories and images of beautiful dark-skinned children who are intelligent and amicable.
For children between the ages of 7-12: “Associate her dark skin with things valued.” Also, your tone of voice has a lot to do with making her feel the value of dark skin. Commenting often about the beauty of her dark hues and using a tone of admiration and appreciation will inspire her your child to take pride in her features.
For pre-teens and adolescents: Speak often and openly acknowledge dark-skinned black women who have achieved great things, as well as darker toned African American and African women who are prized for their beauty.
Personally, I recommend starting a dialogue about negative stereotypes about black women, colorism, featurism and texturism at an earlier age than 13. The earlier you equip the young dark-skinned girl in your life with the tools to understand her situation and protect herself, the better chance she has of growing up without self-hate.
2. Educate Her About Colorism From An Early Age
Because colorism is such a sensitive issue, it may be tempting to sweep the problem under the rug and hope that your daughter will never have to face it. Unfortunately, that’s not a feasible alternative. if you have a dark-skinned daughter, she’s going to encounter colorism whether it comes in the form of insensitive comments, or rears its ugly head in another aspect of her life.
On the other hand, educating your daughter about colorism from a young age will help distance her mentally from the impact of colorism, and allow her to analyze and understand its impact on the world as well as to choose how she will allow it to impact her mind.
Talk to your daughter. Play an active role in her life by asking her about the issues she may be facing in school or with her peers. Talk to her about the messages she may receive from television, music, YouTube and Instagram, and be the sort of person she can talk to about how these images are affecting her and her self-image.
3. Create A Bubble Of Beautiful Dark-Skinned Women And Images That She Can Look Up To
Make sure that the shows and music videos she’s watching are sending good messages about darker skin. Shows that place dark skinned black women in lead roles and position them as desirable, beautiful, smart and valuable are a good place to start. If you’re struggling to find good representation in the media, at the very least, ensure that your daughter has a long list of real life people who look like her and whom she can aspire to be like, since role models are such an important part of a young girl’s life.
Teaching her to take pride in her dark skin can be done by showing her the legions of beautiful, smart and worthy darker skinned women who have been successful, who have found love and who have been able to live their best lives. Girls are often taught that our worth is based on our looks and it’s not helpful to deny the impact that looks have on your livelihood, your circle of friends, how easy it is to find love, etc. However, you can teach her to take pride in her looks as well as to place her self-worth in her personality and abilities.
4. Teach Her To Go Where She Is Celebrated, Not Simply Tolerated
Encourage her to cut off toxic friendships and to seek out relationships with people who positively impact her life and make her feel like the best version of herself. As she grows older, it may a good idea to discuss the fetishization and hyper sexualization of dark skin in the media, and encourage her to steer clear from those who fetishize any race or skin tone.
Encourage her to support entertainers and popular figures who embrace and appreciate dark skin, as well as to not lend support to those who may publicly disrespect it.
5. Teach Her About The Richness of Black History And Culture
Teaching young black girls about their history and cultural inheritance is another great way to prevent the mental damage and hurt that can arise as a result of colorism. By ensuring that she’s aware of the fact that she comes from a rich culture and history—one that predates the enslavement period—she will be able to build some ethnic and racial pride and feel more connected to other blacks around her, as well as those from the past.
When education professor at the University of Washington Janine Jones studied the impact that participating in programs designed to cultivate black pride and identity had on African-American girls, she found interesting results. The girls who participated in these activities reported a higher self-esteem and confidence. This means it’s important to place our young black girls in environments where they are one of many black girls, and places where they can learn about their cultural tradition and connect to the black community.
Despite all of this, your daughter may still express a desire to have a fairer complexion. Don’t panic! Because of the way our society is structured, it may take your daughter a while to reach a place of self-love. Be consistent in reminding her that dark skin is gorgeous, and discourage the use of bleaching creams. Moreover, if your daughter is really struggling with loving her dark skin or any form of mental illness, don’t hesitate to provide her with professional help such as regular counselling or group therapy.
Remember, colorism is extremely tough to overcome, especially when you’re experiencing all the hormonal changes and trials of adolescence. The best thing you can do for your daughter is to be a safe space for her, which means being someone she can talk and vent to and most importantly, being someone she can trust fully.
"Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law."