What We Wish We Learned and Unlearned as Little Black Girls
Growing up as a Black girl meant learning things only other black girls could understand. We learned the art of Black girl hair care and…
Growing up as a Black girl meant learning things only other black girls could understand. We learned the art of Black girl hair care and the sacred bonds of Black womanhood that grow between grandmothers, mothers, daughters and aunts. As young Black girls, we were taught many lessons by the women in our families and were expected to carry them with us into our adulthood; lessons about cooking, cleaning and how to carry ourselves overall as women. There are certain lessons, however, that I and many Black women my age, are wishing we could have learned—or unlearned—to save ourselves many years of stress and fear.
- What is considered “too grown”?
We heard it tirelessly growing up as Black girls that there were things that were “too grown” for us. Red lipstick, certain colors of nail polish, our midriff showing, hair that was too long. To some adults, these were considered “too grown” for little black girls of a certain age. If you participated in any of these things, you were “fast” and the parent that allowed you to do them was suddenly raising a “fast little girl” and society dubbed you a pregnant teenager before you were even in middle school. Now that we’ve reached early adulthood, many of us are realizing that those things now—from our perspective—are far from “grown”, especially for little girls. The issue with categorizing certain aspects of Black girlhood as “too grown” is that it tends to sexualize the image of little girls, most importantly Black girls, who are already viewed and treated more mature for their age than what they actually are.
- Was that outfit really inappropriate?
When I was 9-years-old, I hit puberty. When I hit age 11, out came my hips and my developing body. I was the only Black girl my age at both of these times that was going through this, that I knew of. It wasn’t until around age 13 that other adult women began making me feel insecure about my body. I had a full figure before I got to high school and they made sure I knew it. “That skirt is too tight. Look how it makes your butt stick out”, “Those shorts are too short, you need something longer,” were some of my outfit choices a little short for the occasion at times? Sure. Looking back, I wish I would have been able to give myself the confidence to understand that the way my body grew was not in my control and I could have worn the things I liked with more confidence.
- Your life begins when you find a man.
Black girls were instilled with all of the essential qualities that men look for when dating a woman. Cooking, cleaning, attention, favors- all things we were raised to believe made us a catch for men to want to date and later marry. The problem comes when Black girls are taught every which way how to love a man, but not how to love themselves firsthand. They’re taught that the goal is marriage and kids, but not taught the in-between. That is, how to live a life of fulfillment, how to get your dream job, how to just be happy with you. Some are now in their late twenties realizing that life has passed them by, they have not established a career path, hobbies or solid goals. They feel as though they’ve been sold a dream, that if they cater to a man’s every need, then he’ll eventually marry her, start a family and that’s when their life will begin. However, your life begins when you want it to, how you want it to and finding a husband—although a beautiful point in time—is not the beginning and only goal of life.
- You’re not depressed, you’re just not praying enough.
When it comes to letting black girls be little emotional balls of melanin, the subject of depression and mental health is important. Today, our generation is stressing mental health now more than ever before because many of us are realizing that all of those problems we were told to pray about growing up have not gone away. Religion is huge in the Black community and it was embedded in our brains that there is no obstacle too big for God to handle. While this is true, we’ve found that it’s not always so easy to pray any depression or mental issues away. If it was, many of us would not struggle so much with our emotions and overall mental health.
It is important to love and nurture our little black girls. Talk to them, communicate your love towards them, and be slow to anger with them. In a world where so many of our young Black girls are already challenged and written off before they reach their 10th birthday, it’s extremely imperative for them to have a village that they can run to, a village that loves and celebrates them when the rest of the world does not.
By: Chantelle Polite
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A lot of great points in this post especially number 3. Great read! :)
Hey!!! How did you write about my life, like this? Thank you for articulating what decades of women have been experiencing and just how important un-learning things has become so very important, for me and now for my daughters an young ladies who look up to me.