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By JEANINE DeHONEY

It was innocent enough: my daughter sent this picture of her adorable 3-year-old baby girl to a popular natural haircare website, excited to share the chocolatey goodness of a lovely African American girl with natural hair. But what was meant to be a celebration of my granddaughter’s beauty ended up being a reflection of poison colorism heaps on our community, down to our babies.

Witness some of the hateful comments readers littered the comments with: “The is not very pretty to keep it honest. The hair is to [sic] nappy and the style not that flattering… I hope that she gets a perm it would improve the texture of her hair,” one wrote. “Really? Cute? Not so much! Put a pretty little light skin [sic] child on the site showing her hair.”

Those were the more tame comments.

My granddaughter’s parents, watching the drama unfold, got so disgusted and saddened by the nasty words directed at their daughter that, finally, her father responded with a comment of his own—one that, incredibly, had to remind a bunch of grown Black women that they were talking about a little brown child.

“What is this world coming to? I am this child’s father. And now with all this negative comments, I have to explain to her siblings why people in the world today speak negative of a three-year-old. Crazy. We’ve got so much going on in this world. Now as a father I have to raise this child and continue to let her know she is and always will be an African American Beautiful child and one day a beautiful black woman. And not to feed into negative comments from her elder sisterhood. You all should be ashamed. I kept my mouth shut and sat back and listened to all of this. I just couldn’t sit anymore. Oh and by the way, keep in mind my little girl will want to see her picture again. Because she feels she is famous for being on a website. And guess what she will see…. Hate from grown women. I will pray for you all. May God bless you all… I thought this was a site to uplift African American Beauties for being Queens and Princesses. Everybody needs to stop and look in the mirror. We all bleed blue as a human race and as sisters and brothers we are one;  DARKSKIN, LIGHTSKIN, YELLOW, we are all Kings and Queens and Princesses and Princes so let’s start acting like that.”

To say we were taken aback by the evil comments about my granddaughter’s twist out, funky zebra headband and matching zebra shirt, chocolate-drop skin would be a gross understatement. I would have thought that by now, our shared history would have taught us the importance of watching the way we talk to one another. To do better.

It saddens me more than it troubles me, the ways of some black folks. I remember feeling the same way when they talked about Olympic Gold Medalist Star Gabby Douglas. She made history and people were still focused on her hair. I don’t need strangers to tell me how beautiful Kylie, or my other brown girls and brown young men—my grandchildren—are. Unfortunately, as a writer I know whenever you share anything with a wider audience, be it a picture or a blog post, you take the chance of getting derogatory comments in response. The fact that people have a platform, as they should in a free society, means that you are bound to read something that makes your skin crawl.

Although the affirmative comments Kylie received far outnumbered the negative, I wonder why some of our sisters still can’t shake that hair/color complex that weaves a hurtful, tangled web through our history. The acidic words they spew about not being pretty enough, light enough, or having so-called “good hair” have caused too many brown girls to walk with their heads held low instead of high to the Heavens.

Growing up, I was one of those brown girls who sometimes bumped into people because my head was down. I had heard those wounding words and they scarred me. It took years and a bushel of self-work; journaling, praying, and being encircled by a group of brown girl friends who were confident and knew they had it going on, to reach that place of walking with my head held high. It was also then I became a keeper of all little brown girls. I wanted to do my part to give them a more resilient cloak than I had at that age. I purposely sought out those who were chocolate drops and would say, “You are sooooo beautiful.” And I prayed as they grew, other women and men would offer them a word, a song, a poem, a story that would remind them of their shimmershine.

This experience with my granddaughter has made me even more determined to use my words to offset this longstanding self-hate of our skin and hair. It is time to stop—yes, point blank stop!—this nonsense. We’ve made some strides but it is not enough. Start in your own home if you haven’t already by putting up affirmations that speak of the beauty of our race, then try to get another sister or brother to do the same. Don’t let offensive brown girl comments slide, or back away from a conversation about our complexes about our skin color and our hair. It may be painful to hear, but that is the only way we will begin to heal, if we have those painful conversations.

And let the elders have their say to your child. They have a way with words—“Girl, you sure a pretty child!”—and lovin’ that will wrap around them like a patchwork quilt and keep them buoyant.  I truly believe that words, both written and spoken have the awesome ability to bring about change.

It is evening. I watch my granddaughter play with her Lalaloopsy doll Princess Anise, and sing in all her beautiful black threeness, her hair dancing with beads this time. She has no idea of the war of words that has taken place about her. How her family and friends and even strangers were raising Cain because a few people thought it was okay to attack an innocent little girl.

One day she will leave the safety of our nest and we will not be able to protect her from the mean spirits of others. I am confident though that Kylie will press her shoulders back and lift her head up high and show the world what her Mama, Daddy, Grandma, PopPop, Uncle and Aunties bequeathed her: assurance in who she was and is from the inside out as a brown girl.

And that will be that.

* * *
Jeanine DeHoney has written for dozens of magazines and online publications, including Essence, Upscale, Family Fun and BlackandMarriedWithKids. She also is an essayist in Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul. DeHoney, a contributing writer for Esteem Yourself E-magazine, lives in Pennsylvania.

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33 Comments

  1. This breaks my heart. Your granddaughter is gorgeous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her at all. Not for a second in looking at the picture did I think anything other than what a beautiful little girl this was. These are women who project their insecurities and lack of self love onto others. May your family always find the ways and words to let her know that she is beautiful.

  2. What is wrong with people?! That baby is adorable. Seriously, we need to get back to the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  3. Beautiful girl. Beautiful hair. Just the way God made her!

  4. That baby is absolutely adorable. A beautiful Princess. I LOVE her hair and will show my daughter Mikaela who loves to rock natural twist-out styles too! I’m so so so sick of the negativity surrounding our babies being their natural, beautiful selves. What is wrong with people. I’m so glad that Denene has this site and continues to uplift us and give moms a forum to write about, showcase and brag about our beautiful brown babies. But we’ve still got to stomp out ignorance one idiot at a time…

  5. People who sit behind a keyboard and attack a child are cowards, plain and simple.

  6. OMG!!!! Baby girl is 100% pure cuteness! Her smile, her hair, and THOSE EYES! Daddy, you better look out as the boys WILL come-a-callin’ in about 12 years (call me if you need backup btw :-) I’ll be honest, I may be a bit partial to the natural hair style since that is the same way my 4-year old daughter WANTS hers (not like she was gonna get a relaxer if she wanted one anyway lol). Like I said earlier on FB, we continue to be our own worst enemy. When will it stop? One last comment….my daughter saw the picture while I was typing and said, “Daddy, she looks just like me and has pretty hair just like mine. Can we have a playdate???”

  7. She is beautiful… I am in disbelief that people would stoop so low. Thank you for sharing this story so that we all can uplift and empower our beautiful black children, regardless of their hair texture or skin tone.

  8. Many thanks for sharing this story. It is epidemic, but there is hope. Thanks to our families that think little brown girls and boys are treasures and not chores. We love them, period. Please share the following with your little diamond. it is filled with a message for a little girl who faced this kind of madness last year, and of course they are a small number in the growing number of attacks on our babies esteem and psyche. I offer it to you from other little brown girls with kinky hair.
    http://yabablay.com/a-care-package-for-tiana-locs-of-love/

  9. The impact of self hate permeates every crevice of our blackness. I am so sorry to hear what I have know to be true but didn’t want to face: That will have bought into the mainstream’s definition of beauty and hate ourselves and anyone who reminds us of our true self. Your grandchild is beautiful beyond words and that smile on her face reflects nothing but pure joy.

  10. So sad for so many reasons. Your grandbaby is beautiful. May the circle of community you have around her reinforce it enough to withstand the idiots that walk among us.

  11. Love her perfect, puffy hair, love her Hershey-kissed skin, love her pose! She is exquisite and anyone who thinks otherwise needs an eye exam and brain transplant.

  12. This makes me so sad. Every person who said anything bad about that beautiful little girl (or any child for that matter) should be ashamed. I’m glad her father stepped in. Jeanine, I’m sure you and the rest of your family are doing a wonderful job giving Kylie all the confidence and self love she will need to grow up believing in herself and appreciating all the qualities God gave her.

  13. I’m so sorry that happened! What a precious little girl! What’s up with all these stories lately of little brown girls and their hair? LIke the two stories of little girls being in trouble at school for their “unkept” and “distracting” hairstyles that were clearly not distracting or unkept? Each person can decide for himself/herself, but one reason I keep my children’s photos private (I don’t share photos of them outside my very-private Facebook page)—not on my blog, or on hairstyle pages, or anywhere else—is because I just don’t need to hear what anyone else has to say. And I want to protect my children’s privacy. When they are old enough, they can decide where their photos go. But right now, they are only 5, 3, and 1, and I know how evil and hurtful the web (of strangers) can be…so I’m keeping my babies’ photos private. HUGS to this sweet girl and her family.

  14. All kids need to hear they’re beautiful. And smart. And capable. They’re ok with being the best person they can be. That shouldn’t be squashed by hateful people. What kind of person picks on a child? Not one I want to know.

  15. Thanks so much for all of your positive comments, and cyber love. We truly appreciate your words and will carry them forever in our heart.

  16. I truly wonder what some of these people see when they look in the mirror. How can they look at themselves and not see beauty and then look at that incredibly beautiful child and not see the same? This self hate thing is like a cancer and it’s eating away at our babies but there is a cure; those of us that know better just keep telling them the truth of their beauty until it becomes their armor and the will just smile and walk away knowing that they are special and unique.

  17. The world has gone mad, I’m convinced. There is nothing wrong with this childs hair, hairstyle, hair texture, or the color of her skin. She is beautiful just the way God made her. Its sad to see trolls/adults tear a child a part in this manner.

    Kudos to the Dad for commenting without stooping to their level.

  18. This is how it starts, referring to our beautiful African American brown babies. They become young Black Girls who are chastised for being brown, by our so called America. They either dismiss, or degrade or disrespect, our African American children who are brown girls. This has to start with the media, the celebrities who degrade their own brown women. They joke about how their attitudes and tempers are but they are still our brown women. Our own brown men whom are celebrities speak badly about brown women. They talk about not wanting anything brown in their women these celebrities. The brown brothers whom are celebrities need to start speaking on our behave as brown women, Queens that we are, putting brown girls and brown women above everything, giving brown girls and brown women the props that they deserve. It has to start with the brown brothers who are famous give our BROWN GIRLS AND BROWN WOMEN RESPECT,. It is like an avalanche, it will start trickling down to our brown brothers and CHANGE THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARDS BROWN GIRLS AND BROWN WOMEN.

  19. I’m sure the women that spoke negatively about this baby, our feminist..hate black men, perm their hair, and wear contacts…lol…This child is the epitemy of beauty!!..My only thing I would like to say is we need to stop giving our selves new names, now I’m beginning to hear the word “Brown”…noone wants to be associated with Black..Why?…My 1st grader teacher said that, I heard her, and I immediately corrected her, stating we have been giving all these names to describe us, negro, African American, etc… my child is a black young man…please describe him as such…stating we are brown people- to me sending a message to Other non colored races, that ” We do not want to be affiliated with Blackness either, so we will call ourselves Brown people. We are Black Folks, that came from a Black Land..Other than that, this baby should be the poster child everywhere!!…Little girl when you read this 20 years from now, know some of your people are so brainwashed, and confused…Your a gorgious black little girl, who will grow to become a beautiful black Godess!!

    • I think that some people choose to use the word “brown” because that’s who we are and we want to be the one to identify who we are. The word black was chosen for us and not something we choose for ourselves. I don’t mind either way, however I like having the choice to identify with how I see myself and not what some slave master chose for me. I also think its a positive thing to let little brown girls know who they are and make that decision for themselves. The term black has been deemed as something negative in our society, by the powers that be, and I don’t want my little brown girls associated with those negativity and how they see themselves.

  20. these kind of things make me scared to have children! people are so pathetic, taking their time to bash toddlers because they don’t fit someone else’s standards of beauty. I’m not even this little girl’s mother, and i’m pissed off!! I’m mad that the grandfather actually had to write a response to put people in their place. Perhaps the best way to raise a child to love themselves is in an environment (ex: an African country, country in the caribbean) surrounded by many other people who look like them and aren’t warped by Americanized standards of beauty like some African Americans are. Mental slavery still exists, and its sad that these people are so eager to spread their hate.

  21. She is an adorable little girl who is going to grow up into a beautiful young lady. Surround her with love and teach her to be proud of herself.

  22. Haters gonna hate! Those people bashing this cute and adorable kid don’t know how to appreciate REAL BEAUTY! Stop hating! This little girl has done nothing wrong to you! To the parents of this lovely kid, don’t mind the negative comments. Just stay happy and pretty our cute little baby! I love you just the way you are! You are beautiful!

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