Before my daughter was born, I alway told myself that I would breastfeed. Knowing that black women in general have a poor record of maintaining breastfeeding, I looked for all the information I could find on the subject and joined Facebook pages like Blacktating to gather encouragement from other Black moms. More recently Blacktating recommended a link from Black Women Do Breastfeed, and I joined in, even though I stopped breastfeeding when my daughter was two.
I enjoyed reading the stories and advice and gave encouragement to the sisters who posted images of themselves breastfeeding. So when I saw the image of Karlesha Thurman breastfeeding her baby at her graduation, I though it was an awesome pic, ‘Liked’ it, and moved on to the next post. Who knew that there would be an uproar about the pic from people chastising her about whipping out her boob for a feeding and sharing the moment with her baby? Especially since Rihanna came out at the CFDA’s in a stunning sheer gown that gloriously displayed her breasts for the sake of… fashion. So silly that the internet still thinks that when breasts aren’t for public consumption, then they are vulgar to display. I wish we could just get over it.
The second uproar was over a celebrity’s maintenance of a child’s hair and a mock petition that ensued from a recent picture of the toddler. When I first saw the image of the child, I wanted to post something about caring for our daughter’s hair, the techniques used for starting and caring for locks, and the importance of showing self-love through care and maintenance. Speaking from experience, I have been natural for over 10 years, and have worn dreadlocks for four of those years. But I paused in releasing such a post, just to see if the internet would die down. It didn’t.
My boo-boo with her little afro puffs
I can’t comment on other’s people’s children, but I can give an account of life with my own. It’s funny how complete strangers come to the defense of a celebrity and project their own defenses of a celebrity’s intentions. I had to wonder if these were the same people that give me the side-eye when my daughter decides to pull off her hoodie in the subway on a harried morning when her coils get no love from a comb. All of the Facebook activists for natural hair were really defending what would normally be criticism of a non-celebrity mother. Daily criticism aside, I know how painful it can be when I decide to let my baby’s hair air-dry without properly treating it. The hair becomes matted, tangled and painful to comb. So no, I’m not going to regularly ‘leave it alone’ for the sake of being ‘natural’. It gets combed, oiled with coconut and olive oil, and styled. Since when does natural mean neglected? Basically, I call BS on all of the digital support for someone who has improperly cared for a baby’s tender locks, repeatedly. Because had it been me, or any other mother, on any given day, we would not have gotten the outpouring of support.
I also find it odd that no one has mentioned that nobody *has* to know where you are every minute of the day. Nobody has to see you when you wake up, get off a private jet, or have dinner. Celebrities simply keep paps on speed-dial so that photographers know where to snap said celeb, and thus said celeb stays in the tabloids, on the web, and in our mouths. No press is bad press for a celebrity. Keep that in mind.
Lastly, I must say that I’m a bit saddened by the Black community’s cavalier attitude regarding how we present ourselves to our younger generations. As a mother, I know my daughter watches everything I do, and I want to be her best role model for what it means to be smart, beautiful and Black. I simply could not live with myself by teaching her one set of standards, while living my own. After a while, a child begins to question things, and philosophy won’t hold water when the walk is not the same.
Why have we allowed ourselves to make excuses for our poor appearance, our overweight, unhealthy bodies, and our bad attitudes towards our brothers and sisters, all in the name of modernity and political correctness? We give celebrities a pass, we say ‘oh she’s smart, and talented’, ‘get over it’, and we chastise anyone who calls out a misstep as a ‘hater’. We may be free to be, but with this newfound freedom to feel and be and do as we wish, we have lost something: dignity. As descendants of kings and queens we have forgotten the great pride that these nobility took, not only in their education, but in their civility, and yes, their appearance. When did it become a bad thing to look and act dignified?
The internet really is a wild west of opinion. But what really matters is how we treat each other once we leave the page. Be well.