I’ll never forget holding Eliza in my lap one night reading her books with a singing competition on tv in the background. As a Black female contestant started to sing, Eliza paused what she was doing and sat entranced. I watched Eliza staring at the young woman, and the same thought kept coming to mind, “It’s true. Representation matters.”
I am only three years deep in this journey of finding role models who look like my children for my children. As I mentioned before, Eliza notices every single time there is a little girl who shares her skin tone and her beautiful curly hair. This past week, we were reading a book and she innocently asked me, “Where’s me?” In this particular book, there wasn’t a girl who mirrored Eliza’s reflection. It hit me in my gut. Every book we read, she is looking for herself.
Isn’t that what we all do? I loved to read as a kid and teenager. In every single book I read, I always pictured myself as one of the characters. We all want to be the heroin. The kid who makes good decisions. The kid who goes on the adventure. The kid who saves the day.
Yet for my beautiful Black daughter, she is already realizing that often the world won’t give her the heroine role. All too often, the world doesn’t give little Black girls and boys roles at all. My son and my daughter will have to forge their own roles in the stories they read and play.
Before we ever had kids, I remember my husband and I starting to talk about the truth that representation matters. We had moved from a predominantly diverse area of Houston, to an area of Texas that had an obvious majority of white people living and attending the school we were at. Sadly, it took me until that point in my life to start to recognize what People of Color have been stating for years. Representation matters.
Representation matters. But here’s the lesson that I took way too long to realize through all this. Not only does it matter for POC, but it also matters for white America.
Here are some action steps that Aaron and I have taken in the past and are continuing to take now to better ensure that our children are raised with the understanding and the focus that representation matters.
1. We started becoming deliberate in bringing diversity into our collection of books, tv shows movies, toys etc... do we see POC represented as the primary lead? Are those characters portrayed in a positive light?
2. We are extremely purposeful with who we follow on social media and the podcasts/sermons we listen to. (This has been especially huge for me personally.) I’ve started following a lot of pastors and authors of Color. I have learned tremendously just by seeing what they post, what they recommend, what they perceive. This has helped me recognize systematic racism and prejudice in our everyday life. Brian Lorritts, Jackie Hill Perry, Preston Perry, Eugene Cho, Dr. Tony Evans, Latasha Morrison, and Jemar Tisby are a few of the individuals I would recommend following.
3. We are purposeful with having a diverse friend and acquaintance group. Obviously, we all have our friends that we’ve known forever, but moving forward are we getting to know people who look different than us? We’ve been reminded how huge this is- especially for our kids to see us being friends with different ethnicities and races. This will help them separate the stereotypes that they mostly see on tv with real people they have laughed with, seen their parents go deep with, and have had in their home. This will help children and parents alike to believe the stories of POC and hear the daily occurrences of racism that still happens.
Let’s push towards the world that our children’s aptitudes are not determined by their race. Let’s push toward the world where success is not an expectation of the privileged and a surprise for those who aren’t. When representation matters, each child meets an older version of themselves which gives life to dreams beyond what they have seen.
Representation matters. In our society. In our churches. In our homes. Let’s write stories for our sons and daughters where each and every child has an important role. Let’s move to the world that reflects the story of equality that God wrote for each of us.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!