Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | August 18, 2014

Teaching My Children to Love Their Skin

In a 21st century environment where I can still find racial discrimination in different aspects of life, I strive daily to fight the system.

When I was a child, I loved cartoons. I often wondered why all the characters did not look like me. Luckily, I grew up in a predominantly black community. The leaders, the police, the good people and the not so good ones mostly shared a common ancestry. My kids are not living that reality.

Propaganda is a poison of this society. Because of this, I screen their books, TV shows, toys and the games they play. I don’t want to rob them of their childhood but I want to minimize negative conditioning. Media has been a weapon used to create the current skewed view of black people.

Colors are powerful. Many cartoons and books use colors to describe a negative character. Often times the evil/bad character is described as dark. In reality, negativity does not take on a skin color/tone.

They say, “Daddy, can we watch this?” most times I say, “No, it’s foolishness!” Then I’m asked why. So over the years I’ve talked about the multi-cultural world we live in. I’ve asked them what do they see when they are at school or on the playground. Then I ask if this cartoon or book reflects their reality.

My father did not have this conversation with me. I grew up in a culture that encouraged me to love the skin I’m in. The culture in the USVI had flaws and aspects of colorism but the overall message was black is beautiful.

No one was gunned down because of racial profiling. No one was treated differently in school because the administrators had preconceived notions about people of African ancestry.

There are multiple realities for different groups of people in United States of America. The reality for my children is my top concern. They are fun loving kids who do not fear the police. But they are witnessing inequality…

Often times, I’m a filter. But I can’t filter out all the racist BS that exists. From day one we’ve talked about love and respect. Bedtime stories range from imagined characters to civil rights sheroes/heroes.

“Daddy, why was the bus driver mean to the woman in the story?” they asked. I replied, “The color of her skin.”  

“Daddy, why are the people marching?” they asked. I replied, “They are marching for equal rights.”

People are still marching, organizing and strategizing for equal rights…As an artist, I write music for social justice but the songs/messages are also for my kids. They are freedom’s children, they are love and they are key elements in my life.

I want them to love and respect themselves (hair, skin, character, history, family, ancestry). I want them to love and respect others. I want them to understand history and use it as a tool to excel. Unfortunately, they are gradually being exposed to the double standards in society.

As a parent, I will continue to teach them to love while fighting the deeply-rooted cancerous hate that threatens the quality of their existence.

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