As a mum, I find myself re-evaluating the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and racism. It is one thing for me to start making more of a conscious effort to buy from black businesses or start having real conversations about racism, but what does it actually mean when it comes to raising my children (not just speaking to them) about being black in the UK.
Now a bit of my background. I was born in Nigeria and spent my formative years there. Although Nigeria has its own prejudice and discrimination battles, for me, racism was not one of them. I mean, everyone pretty much looked the same, we were all black so we knew Black Lives Matter 😊.
Racism at University (Black Lives Matter)
It wasn’t until I was at University (in the UK) that I experienced racism and back then, the black lives matters slogan didn’t exist yet. Don’t get me wrong, in school and college, I knew racism existed. We have all heard stories of black boys being stopped and searched for no obvious reasons or girls not getting part time jobs because their look didn’t exactly fit with the “image” of the store, but racism had never directly happened to me. Also, at that young age, when I thought about racism, all I could think of was what we would call aggressive, direct or in your face racism, not covert racism, which was what I experienced.
Like when we would apply for vacation placements at University and all my Caucasian classmates would get placed despite my grades being much better and having actual transferable skills because I had 2/3 jobs at a time at Uni😊.
Or when we would hand out C.Vs at the local shops and you they would tell me that they have don’t have any vacancies but my Caucasian friend would come out of the same store (back in the day, you went in separately so they didn’t think they were hiring friends who would just be chatting away on the shop floor 😊), saying that they not only took her CV, but that they were going to be having an open day interview soon.
I finally started to experience what it was like to be treated differently because of the colour of my skin and unfortunately, it didn’t get any better and it still happens to today. I can’t tell you how many legal seminars I go to, and I am asked if I am in the right place. Mind you I am causally dressed, jeans and a jumper but come on, it’s a seminar and unless you are going straight back to work, I tend to keep it casual 😊, but that is beside the point, those courses are not cheap for one and if I am there, be sure that I know exactly where I am 😊.
My daughter wanted long hair like Elsa
So knowing and experiencing this, I have been very conscious of how I expose not just my culture, but the fact that we are black, to my kids. A few months ago, my 4 year old daughter said something that broke my heart. She told me that she wanted long her like Elsa (first of all, I was like who? because I had never let her watch Frozen in my house) but the fact that she not only knew the name but also the appearance of the character just proves to me that you need to teach your kids at home first because you really don’t know what information they are absorbing when they are not with you.
Her father and I had to sit her down to speak to her about how beautiful her hair is. I of course called in reinforcements because it takes a village to raise a child, and I told my family and friends that when they see her, to causally mention her hair and how beautiful it is.
This experience just showed me the importance of your black community and how they help in raising your children alongside you to be confident about who God has made them to be, black and beautiful. She still has her long hair moments (she is 4 years old 😊) but I can safely say that she knows that her own hair is still beautiful.
I have learned 3 major things from the recent Black Lives Matter movement and what I need to do to ensure what has happened on a global scale translates to practical steps for my own household.
I realise now more than ever how I need to educate myself about the history of black people in order to educate my children on why being black is not only something that is beautiful but it should also be something to feel proud of. For example, did you know that it was actually an African-American inventor, Lewis Latimer, who invented the carbon filament that allows the bulb to function and although Thomas Edison is renowned for inventing the light bulb, Lewis made it actually work.
I speak Yoruba at home to the kids and we eat a lot of Nigerian food but what the Black Lives Matter movement has taught me is that my kids need more exposure to being black outside the home so that they can understand that it is beyond the four walls of their home. So I have to actively expose my kids to TV shows, books, cartoon and music, to make sure that whoever they associate as beautiful, smart, can dance or has a great singing voice isn’t primarily Causation.
My kids are not too young for me to start having “conversations” with them about race inequality. My job as a parent is to know how to speak to them in order to help them understand the concept around it, for example, fairness is a theme of inequality and let me tell you , at the age of 3 and 4 years, my kids know all about being fair when I am giving them snacks 😊. So by introducing the concept of fairness at a young age, it paves a way for me to continue that dialogue about the unfairness of racial inequality to them as they grow up.
So with the theme of education, I went back to basics on educating myself on my natural hair, I started looking at exactly what my hair type was so I can start to educate my daughter about her hair and teach my son to appreciate natural hair. I have written a post all about my natural hair type but this post is all about my hair porosity. If you want to check that out, CLICK HERE.
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