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I tried to stop her from watching. But after encouragement from her friends, there she was, standing in front of the television, pulling dejectedly at her hair and voicing that she wanted curls like “Goldilocks.” Like most five year-old black girls, she was impressionable and hard-pressed to find beauty like hers on the TV screen. As her godmother, I would show her my hair with its curls coiled as tight as rosebuds and encourage her to love her own just as it is. But somehow, mainstream ideals seeped in telling her that there was another texture, color and length to be idealized.

Everyday, I plant seeds in my god-daughter to love her healthy, bouncy ringlets no matter what society may think of them. But it’s difficult to teach her what is pretty when the images that surround her tell a different story.

The journey is harder still for little girls who are not made to feel beautiful in their own skin because of the adults in their lives.

Writer Jennae Peterson, who founded the blog Green and Gorgeous, shared a picture from Facebook of a five month-old infant whose hair looks as if it’s been manipulated to appear straighter. Peterson talks about the obvious health risk:

Relaxers. Freaking. Burn. I say this from years of experience that started when I was in third grade. And babies have tender, sensitive scalps, so I imagine that putting relaxer on an infant’s head for more than a minute or two would result in burning. Also? Hot combs. Freaking. Burn.

The psychological implications are just as grave. She writes:

I’m sure this baby was cute as a button with her kinky, curly hair. But apparently, her own mother didn’t see it that way. Apparently, her dislike of her daughter’s hair was serious enough for her to risk the baby’s safety in order to change it.

When a girl comes of age, and is mature enough to make decisions about her hair texture, she can decide to wear it whatever way she chooses.

But don’t we owe it to our girls to teach them they’re pretty just as they are, especially in the most tender stages of their lives? What are your thoughts, Clutchettes? How do you teach little girls “what is pretty”?

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