On an episode of Red Table Talk, the topic centered around mom-shaming, specifically within the entertainment industry. Joined by fellow moms Ashley Graham, Maren Morris, and Jessica Alba, Jada Pinkett Smith recounts the waves of criticism she received when Willow Smith, then 12-years-old, decided to shave her head.
That experience, coupled with many others surrounding the appearance of her children, taught Jada an important lesson about parenting.
"Looking at how my children were being affected, that's what count(s). When people are like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe you shaved Willow's head!' If they coulda seen this child's expression of freedom looking at her hair falling to the ground, so me as a mom looking at that, experiencing that with her—there is nothing that anyone could say to me to tell me that it was wrong."
Willow, then, revealed that she believed her and her brother Jaden were shunned from the black community based on their eclectic appearances and the way they were raised.
"Specifically with the African-American community, I felt like me and Jaden were shunned a little bit. Like, 'We're not going to take pride in them because they're too different, they're too weird."
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The question shouldn't be if Willow was shunned by the black community; more so, was she shunned by mainstream media? A media that historically has a one-dimensional view of what a young black woman should look and act like. The American media is, and has been for decades, controlled and operated by people who do not look like Willow. Up until recently (and recently being 2019), writers' rooms and corporate suites were full of homogenous old men.
For Willow to point to the black community as the media, when very few, if any, black voices are heard or amplified, is a bit harsh. That's not to say Willow hasn't been shunned by members of the black community. A few seconds behind that statement, she says:
"Even some of our family members, I would feel they thought we're too different."
As with many young black people, the views and beliefs of our elders can be oppressive and limiting. Sexism, homophobia, and other harmful stereotypes exist in our community that we actively need to fight against. We're constantly fighting from within, especially as a black woman. Jada explained:
"Even in the community, we create stereotypes around ourselves and it's something that we, as a community, really have to learn how to let go of. I know that people felt like it's dangerous ... You know what it's like to be a Black or Brown person in this world. You are doing your kids a disservice. I understood where that fear came from, but I also understood, from having been on the streets and having had not been your conventional Black girl in the streets of Baltimore, I knew that self-confidence is what helped me survive."
Both concepts can and do exist. Willow and Jaden were shamed in the media for the way they expressed themselves, but that wasn't the black community. It is also true that Willow and Jaden were shunned by members of the black community for how they chose to express themselves.
As a community and especially black entertainers, it's important to be careful about the rhetoric we place on our community and our members.
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