This morning, my daughter pranced out the door on her way to another day of second grade. She was pleased as peach with her self-selected outfit, her dark curly hair (inherited from her Kenyan father, kept “down” with a headband today), and the academic activities ahead (she loves school).
This afternoon, my daughter returned home and reported that she had had a “kinda bad” day: several kids in her predominantly white elementary school felt the liberty to tell my biracial daughter that her hair “looked like Frankenstein” and was “freaky.” Another young student suggested that she should “do something about” her hair.
A few years ago when my son was in kindergarten, a classmate commented that he looked “bald” when he came to school with a fresh haircut. To this day, my son–now a fifth grader–has strong opinions about the length of his hair when he sits in the barber’s chair (it cannot be too short).
I’m debating a letter to the editor in the local newspaper, reminding parents that the ways in which they voice their opinions at home about politics, people, and the state of the world directly impacts the kind of crap that their kids dump on my kids. Whaddyu think, too strong?
Anyway. For tonight’s reading time before bed, I am printing out the following excerpt of Toni Morrison’s Beloved (a beautiful but troubling book) for my kids to read: that wonderful sermon by Baby Suggs in the middle of a forest clearing. Perhaps someday the affirmation of bodies of color will no longer need to be a covert act of resistance but a common celebration of humanity.
“We flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes… No more do they love the skin on your back… And O my people they do not love your hands… Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you!”
“This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you… And the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”
(Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Plume Books, 1988. 88-89.)