A Girl Like Me, and 3 Ways that we can Change Kids’ Images of Themselves

I was sent a video today that really bothered and inspired me. A high school student in New York made a documentary called A Girl Like Me (see below, linked here) that brings the question of our children’s images of race are affected at a young age.

This is reminiscent of the famous Doll Test that was part of the Brown v. Board of Education case against segregation.

How do we reverse this? There has to be a way to let Black children know that Black is good and not bad. But how? Since the idea of “white being better than Black” is learned/taught like everything else that a child absorbs, we have to think about what we are doing specifically to get Black boys and girls to think like this.

With this in mind, we need to be careful what we say and do. Here are 3 Ways that we can Change Kids’ Images of Themselves:

1. Be careful how we talk with, talk about, and acknowledge Black people
This means cleaning up our intra-racial dialogue. This means being careful about how we say things when criticizing one another (why do we have to say “you are a sorry excuse for a Black man” and not “sorry excuse for a man). This means no longer saying n!gga/n!gger to one another or anyone else, especially around children [of any race]. I would bet that even if a kid did not know what the word meant, they would know it was bad.

2. Watch what we watch, Listen to what we are listening to
Pay attention to subliminal messages in our media. Look for things that are being “said without being said.” For example, take TV shows like MTV’s The Real World. The majority of [straight] Black male characters on that show over the years have had non-Black girlfriends. The majority of the Black female characters on that show have been highly temperamental and standoff-ish. They did not outright say that “Black men want any woman that is not Black,” or “Black women are impossible to get along with.” The thing is, they did not have to say it. Take BET as another example, with their insistence on pushing music videos that push ignorant interpretations of Black masculinity and hyper-sexualized interpretations of Black femininity. They are telling you that this is what Black folks are. Kids aren’t stupid, and if they see a bunch of [Black] men smacking around Black women on TV, they are going to start wondering whether something is wrong with Black women. If the media that you consume is pushing this garbage, STOP CONSUMING IT!

3. Educate young people by talking about why you love your people
I am not talking about educating through school, which of course is necessary. I am talking about educating by talking with kids. When was the last time you, Black man/father, told your Black son/daughter or any other Black child why you love Black women or Black people? Black woman/mother, when was the last time you told your Black son/daughter or any other Black child why you love Black men or Black people? We spend so much time telling kids negative stuff: don’t do this, don’t touch that, don’t go here. Why not spend some time telling them what to do: do love your people.

Any other ideas?

News coverage and a brief interview with the filmmaker are available here.

One Love. One II.

Black Issues


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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