Written by: Brittany Cooper
Edited by: Clementine Davis
America has a problem with Black children. Let that sink in.
It’s the reason our babies are seen as a threat from the moment they learn to walk. It’s the reason behind the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s the reason Black kids are more likely to be suspended, expelled, and even arrested than their white peers for the same behaviors. It’s the reason we know the names Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown. It’s the reason Latasha Harlins, 15, was killed over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice in 1991. It’s the reason the woman who killed her never spent a day in prison. America has a problem with Black children that causes them to be seen as aggressive, troublemakers, and menaces to society.
America has a problem with Black children, and so do Black people.
Hear me out.
As a culture, we tend to force our kids to grow up too fast. We teach our boys that they can’t cry or be sensitive. We sexualize our girls from a young age, and teach them that their bodies are things to be ashamed of. We teach our kids that they have to leave the house as soon as they turn 18. We teach our kids that they cannot be kids for too long.
I’m not a parent, yet. I know that makes it much easier to speak from the outside looking in. But, I was a little Black girl once upon a time. I had great parents, but I was still subjected to the same things I’m talking about. Think about it. As a Black woman, were you ever told to stop being ‘fast’ or stay away from ‘fast little girls?’ Were you ever told to go cover up because your uncles were coming over, even though you were most likely dressed like a normal little kid who spent the day in the house? Ever had someone tell you that you needed to put a bra on, in your own house, because a man was present? That’s what I’m talking about. Why do we let our little queens be sexualized so young? We have to stop putting the weight of the world on their shoulders from the time they hit puberty. Am I telling you to let your daughter walk around naked or allow old men to ogle her? Absolutely not. If a grown man can’t stop himself from staring at a 13-year-old girl, the problem is with HIM, not her. Check him, not your baby.
Little Black boys are taught not to cry or be too sensitive - to be men. But they AREN’T MEN. They’re children, who should be able to express their feelings and emotions without being ridiculed or shut down. They should be able to explore all of their interests, whether that be dance, art, football, or soccer. Stop limiting Black boys based on what YOU think a man is. He’s not a man yet. And if you force him to “act like one” before he’s ready, you’re most likely raising a toxic man. Let that little king live his best life.
Black parents are hard on their kids. And I get it, life is hard. You want them to be tough, so when they go out into this ugly world, they’re prepared. But the best way to prepare them is to just let them grow into who they’re meant to be. Guide them and love and support them. We should, of course, correct bad behavior, but children are just as emotionally complex as us. They just have less ability to express it coherently. It’s important that we allow our kids to be emotional beings; that we respect their feelings and opinions. We have to stop rushing them to grow up so fast. We have to let black kids just be kids.