Well it has finally happened. That dreaded moment most minority parents fear will come at some point. Our 9 year old daughter came to us last night and asked how old she had to be to have surgery on her nose because she thought it was simply too big.
Needless to say, my wife and I were appalled to her this but we we didn’t blame her or jump on her for this all-too-common self-denial that happens to a lot of minority children in our society that bombards us with images of white standards of beauty. Of course we stopped her on the spot and gently tried to make sure she knew that we thought she was perfect as she was and make sure she understood that beautiful noses came in many sizes. She seemed to accept what we were saying but I could tell the belief that she wanted to be other was already in too deep for us to get it out of her that easily.
I wasn’t wrong.
This morning she came to me and declared that “though she knew she was beautiful and all that, she wanted to try blonde hair and hazel eyes.”
Again, I calmly asserted how beautiful she was as she is but I also asked why she wanted these changes. Her only answer, that she thought blonde hair and hazel eyes were pretty and that she was tired of dark hair and dark eyes. To be honest I think I did o.k. to deflect her at that moment, but as prepared as I thought I’d be for this moment, I was somewhat at a loss.
My wife and I will have to discuss this one some more. Clearly we have some work to do. I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong up to now, because I do think it is so hard to keep every bit of this “white envy” out in our culture, but we clearly have not done enough. By the way, we asked our 11 year old son if he was happy with who he was and his appearance and he said he was completely happy with himself. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay vigilante or that he wasn’t lying. So we’ll up the ante there too. But I also recognize this issue strikes a bit harder on minority girls.
So despite our efforts and my vigilance on issues of “race” the self-esteem issues of cultural beauty have seeped in. I did not think we would be immune. But it is still tough when it happens.