Watching the documentary Dark Girls recently was an eye-opening experience. Growing up I had never really paid a lot of attention to the conflict that ensues within our race based on complexion, let alone did I know it to be called colorism. To some its just another -ism in a sea of biases that hurt some and afford others a better, more privileged life. The unique thing about this condition is how both sides (as shown in the televised follow-up special, Light Girls) feel they have the worser plight. How did we even get here? We all know where it began, but how can we move past colorism towards healing and unity? The answer lies in breaking the psychological cycle ingrained in our culture and it begins with our children because they are the future.
All of the behaviors that come out of colorism are learned behaviors. That means how we raise our children makes a huge difference in how they will behave and respond to others’ behavior. However we can’t teach them better if we’re suffering pain from the same condition ourselves. We must take care of our own healing first. Whatever emotions surrounding name-calling and wrong-doing by others because of our skin color must be addressed and forgiven. The next step is increasing our self-love and finding value in who we are inside and out. All of this can be accomplished with therapy and surrounding ourselves with loving support.
Our children pick up on our attitudes towards everything from the beginning of their understanding. It’s important to be mindful of the words we say and how we treat others in front of them. Just from our actions alone they should learn to treat everyone with respect and compassion, no matter what they look like. It doesn’t stop there though. Once they are old enough to engage in dialogue we must communicate that as well. It goes right along with teaching them please and thank you.
Unfortunately other parents won’t be teaching this to their children, so that’s where we have to step in and compensate by preparing our children. It’s good to communicate with them that other children may lash out because they don’t feel good about themselves. Making sure our kids are aware of this before it even happens can go along way to stop future bullying. Even more important is teaching them how to respond. Nothing may ever take away the initial hurt from being called names, but teaching them to know their own self-worth will make it short-lived.
Surround them with the love and support the need to grow up and become healthy, happy human beings in the midst of any and all adversity. Colorism may be impossible to stamp out completely, like the seemingly never ending plight to end racism, but we’ve got to start somewhere. Let’s give our kids a better outlook than what we grew up with.
Written by Leslie Matthews, Contributing Writer, #mygirlsquad