Letters To My Daughters: What I Will Tell My Little Black Girls About Their Blackness
Before I hand my infant daughter to her mother for feeding and soothing, I talk to her in rhymes and spellbound lyrics from Jay-Z songs and Old Dirty Bastard ad-libs. I finish tickling her small tummy, the tummy that can fit under the whole of my palm. I hold her; I sit and stare at the brown of her eyes that I know others drown in and think about how fortunate I am to raise a little Black girl.
The world tends to try to tell us differently. The media will spoon-feed us by the bit the perils of being Black and alive. This tale has been spun since we boarded the ships that brought us here. It will be told long after the internet collapses, after we are mask-less, after cars drive themselves and fly us into the next streetlight — or even the next shiny new Kroger appears up the street. But we get to shape a new narrative for our Black children. We get to layout new ways for our girls to reimagine their Blackness on their terms.
I want my girls to have nice things. Black girls are not told enough they deserve nice things and that they deserve nice things to happen to them and for them. I think of the Black girls I hung around and went to school with — we weren’t told they were to be given space for love and niceties. Being nice to Black girls only meant you needed something from their bodies. My girls — our girls — deserve more than that. When we serve the higher purpose of the little Black girls who will hold public office, lead our classrooms, stock markets, and design studios, we also create better humans, communities, and better ways of living for all.
Having “nice” things isn’t always about material possessions — it also gets to be about having love in your home and love in your heart. It means having a community in your life that fills you up. It can be about having resources, tools, and the language to thrive. It’s a language I didn’t have and want them to possess. Nice things are the ability to communicate their wants and needs, their fears and worries all while sitting in the bravest of spaces with hearts fully on sleeves, where their truth is not discouraged but given the wings it merits. Making nice not a thing that is given with conditions and strings, but rightfully owed to them, is what I hope will be every little Black girl’s story.
Their Blackness gets to be determined by them. It is not determined by weight, body shape, jaw contour, or ties to cultural intimacy — their ability to name all of the Five Heartbeats or quote random Black sitcoms verbatim. It is beyond their wide noses and hips.
Their Blackness gets to explore the width of their humanity, the genius of their pen and tender hearts, as bright as the last flicker of a spent candlewick.
I want them to know that overflow is a prerequisite. That affirmative action is not a handout but only a small part of the reparations owed for the workload their ancestors bore in both belly and sacrifice to make imagining the world they get to play in. It’s more than a pipe dream but a tangible reality they get to hold in their hands.
Their Blackness is a conduit, and light cannot travel without a vessel. It gets to be razor-sharp, shards of glass. Their tongues as swords, yielded as weapons of mass instruction, guiding and gripping the edges of existence.
Their Blackness does not have to be defined by hurt or the last traumatic thing that took their legs from under them. Their Blackness gets to be a thing they beckon by name, loudly and without hesitation in a frozen food section aisle, while they wait for their morning coffee, while they kiss a stranger or tilt their heads toward Mecca. It is not made for consumption, for tokenism, to be the next hot thing to a sea of hungry white gazers, beaks, and appetites for another encore of the minstrel they long for. They are not made for TV, made for boxes, meant to fit under limiting labels and beliefs; all told to force conformity down their throats. Their Blackness is bigger than that — it does not have to be all or nothing, but all of the things they deserve. I will tell them this often. I will tell them this always.