When I knew I was having a daughter, there were few things I was certain of, well very few things. But one of them was the uncomfortable realization that some day the world we live in would show its ugly side and tell my beautiful brown baby that she ain’t pretty. It would say your full lips are not attractive, your figure is undesirable, your hair; well don’t even get me started on the kinky hair conversations I am sure she will have to have. To combat that, I decided I had no choice in accepting this mission, but I would do my very best to constantly tell my daughter from day one how beautiful and special she is, in hopes of placing a few positive words in her survival backpack.
Those close to us know, I monitor the dolls in our home, the few television programs she’s exposed to, the company we keep and the toddlers she spends time with to make sure there is equitable representation of positive African Americans. Okay all except the dolls; she does not own a Caucasian doll, I am sure that’s not equitable, but it’s a decision I made a long time ago. Let’s be real, the iCarly’s of the world are everywhere, but poor Tiana still hasn’t made it to Disney’s castle in Florida.
To make an extremely long story shorter, a few months ago, while away in Atlanta on a business trip. I snuck away to the Aquarium for a family outing. Morgan was in awe, I highly recommend a visit if you have not made it there yet. As in most tourist attractions on the way out, you can’t really leave without walking through the souvenir shop. Well we all know what an excellent job they do of putting expensive toys right at eye level of our curious, tantrum having toddlers. My husband and I almost made it out and then; she saw it.
“OOOOhhhhh mommy can I have that?” Now of course I saw the almost $20 stuffed mermaids that looked home made, but I ask “can you have what?” “That,” she says pointing and stretching not only my eyes, but my arms towards the pile that was broken up into blonde hair mermaids and mermaids with braids. My husband and I look at each other for confirmation and decide; heck we are on somewhat of a vacation, sure she can have one. Now usually when confronted with an option of dolls, my daughter always picks the one closest to her complexion. In fact, for the longest time, she was convinced that Princess Tiana was the ONLY princess. But as a Chocolate Mommy, I constantly look for confirmation of her self-esteem and self-image and both my husband and I were curious to see which mermaid she would choose. She stands there, 2 feet high, puts her left finger on her left side of her cheek cause that’s what she does when she is thinking about something and she boldly grabs the blonde mermaid.
Now at this moment, my head drops a little and I notice an African American male worker watching this scenario, but I have a bigger fish to fry than his nosiness. This is serious. What do I do? This has never happened before, so I look to my husband for support. Without words we understand we have got to address this right here and right now. Truthfully, I think I froze, so my husband walks to the pile and picks up the one with braids and says, “I like this one Morgan, her hair is like yours. It’s so pretty.” Whew, ain’t nothing like a spouse that has your back. So I reiterate, “yes Morgan, let’s get that one.” Without hesitation, it’s done, she is happy and we have just been put on notice. As we checked out, the African American male worker that watched this entire thing like an episode of the Cosby Show, smiles and says “my mom would have said the same thing.” Now I reserve judgement on if his mom was redirecting him buying a doll or someone else, but recognized his effort to comfort us in our decision. Now of course I am aware of the famous 1939 and 1950 Clark Doll Experiment, when black children overwhelming chose white dolls over black dolls, but I didn’t know those children. I didn’t raise those children. I was prayerful that in a positive, controlled, pro-black environment that my daughter would at least make it out of pre-school without such bias. Now what?