Lately, I look at my daughter and it’s increasingly clear that the childhood years are coming to a fast close. As the dolls and stuffies that used to be in daily play rotation lay untouched and our evening talks center more on the intricacies of managing friendships with the occasional questions about more mature fare, I look into her beautiful face and see signs of the young woman she is becoming—a sensitive, headstrong, occasionally verbose being who still believes in fairness and goodness in a world that is often anything but fair or good, especially for those of us with darker skin tones. I also find myself scared shitless thinking about the current state of the world she will be coming of age in.
When my son was little, I knew that the world would judge him harshly. He was a Black boy; that’s just the way it is and was. By the time he was entering his tween years, I saw the looks that no longer regarded him as a cute kid but saw him instead as a potential threat. It hurt my heart but he had our village to help steel him against the realities of Blackness and maleness.
Yet I was naive when my daughter was born. I didn’t think that she would face the same racialized tensions that her brother would face. Oh, I knew there would be challenges as a Black girl but the events of the past year have really driven home for me how unprepared I am for the realities of raising a Black girl in this current climate.
I am raising this almost at times ethereal soul in a world that finds justification in the degradation of Black women and girls. A world in which a white police officer can sexually assault 13 Black women and girls and the mainstream media can barely be bothered to report on his trial. The same officer whose guilt or innocence will be determined by a jury that has nary a Black person on it. A world in which a foster child is attacked viciously in school by the school resource officer for the “crime” of typical teenage behavior, with far too many adults believe that she should have done as she was told and, in some sense, deserved that wanton violence.
This year we have seen the cry of Black Lives Matter yet far too often that cry excludes Black women and girls and as a Black mother raising a Black girl, I cannot sit comfortably in that reality even when I know that my son and his peers are under attack for their Blackness and their maleness. What about my daughter? Hell, what about me?
I knew that I would have to raise my daughter to deal with the very real microaggressions that occur when existing in white spaces. The “friends” with the backhanded comments about appearance, hair, family…I lived that life as a girl, I still live it to some degree as a woman. But the acceptance of Black womanhood and girlhood as permanent second-class status that is worthy of state-sanctioned violence? No, I can’t accept this; I refuse to accept it. Yet what can I do? I have no pearls of wisdom other than my own lived experience. The last female member of my immediate family died six weeks after my daughter’s birth. I have no mother, sister, aunts or cousins to surround my girl and give her the strength she will need to rise above it.
Black women and girls have always existed in spaces that elevated white womanhood, but what we are facing now is more than just the elevation of whiteness and femaleness. It is a systematic attack on Black women and girls. It is an attempt at complete erasure of our lives and our experiences. In a world where one missing white woman or girl is broadcast on a 24/7 loop, it is agonizing to know that only the degradation of Black women and girls is worthy of media coverage. Rarely is the humanity of Black women and girls deemed worthy of acknowledgement. It is enough to make a mama weep. How do I raise her? How do I save her in this cruel and ugly world that sees no beauty or worth in girls like us?
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