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Black Girl Childhood Is A Myth

Her Voice

Black womanhood is like an exclusive club. A sisterhood.


We are bonded by our likeness and our differences; our diversity. But we are also bonded by the adversity we face as a collective. Lucky for us (because it hasn't always been this way), social media has allowed for all Black women to feel seen, heard, and connected to other Black women. Even those who didn't have the pleasure of growing up around other Black girls. During tough times, we see heavy themes echoed amongst black women about their childhood.

Being a little Black girl is having to grow up too fast and being sexualized too young.

It's being overly self-aware in a way that other children are not.

It's being treated like an adult because you lack the "fragility" of your white counterparts, and the "boys will be boys" excuse afforded to your male counterparts.

For me specifically, being a little Black girl was being sexualized too early. It was being aware that I was not afforded the same carefree-ness as other kids. It was, and is, feeling like many aspects of childhood were privileges that I was not fortunate enough to be born into.

I did everything while keeping in mind the worst thing I could appear to be was "fast." My sexuality was being controlled before I was old enough to even think about sexuality.

I sat on top of a table at the laundromat, eight years old, legs dangling from the edge of the table, open, swinging freely. My mom was taking clothes out of the dryer with her back to me. I was going on and on about some childhood thing of dire importance at the time. My mom turned around and stared at me. I stopped talking. "What?"

"Close your legs."

I scrunched up my face. "...For what??" I questioned rather skeptically for an 8-year-old. I really didn't get it.

"It's not lady-like," she answered as she turned around to continue folding.

I was visibly irritated. "I have on pants…"

Silence.

"That doesn't even make sense," I said. "There's nothing between my legs mom… It makes more sense for BOYS to have to close their legs because there's SOMETHING there!"

More silence.

It was driving me up a wall. What did I need to close my legs for?

I felt gross. Like I was doing something dirty and obscene.

I completely understand the reason behind my mom's comment. You want to do everything you can to protect your child from potential danger. You worry that a man will see a person with female anatomy and want to penetrate. While the responsibility not to rape lies FULLY on men, the responsibility to protect your child lies on the parents. Ultimately, the responsibility to protect your child causes many parents to lean in to rape culture – telling their young girls what to do to avoid being victimized instead of telling their young boys not to be trash. I was being told to close my legs for fear that a man would see my open legs and want to enter me.

In another instance, I played outside with my older male cousin. I wanted to be just like him. I did everything he did. I was around nine years old. His dad, my uncle, drove down the street to pick him up. He jumped up and down, excited to see his dad, and I did the same. We both ran over to his dad who picked me up to hug me. I heard my mom call my name. "Brittany! It's time to come inside!"

My uncle put me down and I ran inside. "Don't let him pick you up anymore. You're too big for that now," my mom ordered as I walked into the house.

"Why not?"

"You're too old to be having a grown man pick you up. It's inappropriate."

Once again, I felt dirty. Like I was doing something wrong. Instead of the adult in the situation being confronted (although he was also doing nothing wrong in my opinion, even in retrospect as an adult), I was being confronted. The responsibility for the actions of an adult man was being placed on me. I felt embarrassed, like I had done something obscene without realizing it.

I felt it again when I was around 10 years old. My parents and I took a trip to my godparents' house. When we got there, my godbrother, who was 21 at the time, asked me if I wanted to take a trip to Toys R Us to pick out some toys. Of course, I said sure. We went, I got a toy, and returned without incident. On the car ride back home from my godparents' house, I could sense tension. I felt like I was in trouble for something, but the car was silent. Finally, my dad broke the silence.

"Next time a man asks you if you want to go anywhere with him… say no. Just to be safe."

Once again, I felt accountable for the potential misactions of adult men.

While each of these instances sound small, they sent very strong signals. They made me feel as though if something were to happen to me, it would be because of a misjudgement on my part. Like if a man one day decided to take advantage of me, somehow it would be my fault. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure that I didn't provoke men with my barely-developed body. I was acutely aware of my body, of men looking at my body, and of seeming "fast." While this may sound "better safe than sorry," it came at the cost of a blissful, carefree childhood.

Being sexualized too early strips young Black girls of the childhood bliss afforded to most other children. As the world struggles to see us as children, we are being being thrust into a mode of hyper self-awareness that most other children aren't entrenched in until damn near adulthood. This unwanted, victim-blaming responsibility that we carry around causes a lot of shame when something happens to us.

We're supposed to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient. We aren't afforded assumed fragility. We don't get to be the victims.

It's tiring, it's painful, and it's time to stop normalizing these microaggressions.

Fortunately, now we, the former little Black girls, are in control. We're responsible for making sure the next generation of little Black girls don't have it as hard as we did. With social media making it easier to not feel so alone, we can commiserate with other Black women who may have similar experiences and ensure this toxicity ends with us. Being a #carefreeblack girl shouldn't be something that has to be learned. Little Black girls deserve to be truly carefree from the start and we're doing a damn good job of making that a reality.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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