Dear Black Girl, You Are Not a Prop

This week, Gap has been in hot water after releasing their ad campaign for Ellen DeGeneres' children collection. There was an image released for one of their ads that features three young white girls and one young black girl. The issue with this ad goes deeper than the lack of diversity. If you notice, the black model is posed as an "armrest" for one of the other models. Now this could simply be a bad use of judgement on the creative director's part or and intent to, once again, send a message about the "role" of blacks. For years and years...AND YEARS, blacks have been seen as nothing more than just "armrests" and objects with no value. This ad is a just another reminder of the way America, whites specifically, view blacks.

The media constantly puts out images of black people in compromising or degrading circumstances.

What's new? However, I'm concerned because not only are adults, who understand what all this means, being affected, but so are our youth who may not necessarily get it just yet. I am sure that many children will look at this ad and see nothing wrong with at first. Nevertheless, it has been proven on many occasions that children will unconsciously behave as if they are inferior to whites because of the media messages that they are exposed to. To their innocent minds, images like this are just "how the world is supposed to be." It is up to parents, older siblings, EACH OF US to teach our young black children that they are more than what images like this ad portray. We must not only uplift each other, but uplift the younger generation. I think a lot of times, youth are looked over when it comes to these issues because we just naturally assume that they do not get it since many have not learned race issues in school or at home. Whether or not they have learned about slavery, civil rights, etc., the media still impacts their judgement.

Some of you may be familiar with the doll test that a lot of researchers have done on young children where they show children dolls of different races and ask which one is the prettiest, smartest, or the "good" one. So many BLACK girls thought that the LIGHTER dolls were the smartest, the prettiest, and the dolls that were considered the "good" dolls. Most of these kids were too young to have learned about race relations in school, so where did these responses come from? They come from the media, the messages that are portrayed at home...the things that they hear/see on a daily basis. This is extremely dangerous and heartbreaking when you consider the negative connotations of black people that small black children see and hear all the time.

There is no clear-cut solution to this problem, but I do know that we have to start by reaching out to our youth instead of writing them off. Tell them how beautiful they are with their chocolate skin, full lips, and thick hair. Let them know that they are worth more than the value that America places on them. Let our girls know that they can succeed without having to sell their bodies or depend on a man. Let our boys know that they can go farther than the streets or the jail cell. Our black children are more than just an armrest...our black PEOPLE are more than an armrest. We are more than just a "prop" that America can use whenever they need to. We are children of God, majestic creations that cannot and will not be stopped. Whenever you have the opportunity, tell a black child they matter. Remind them of the magic that lives within them.

-m., a proud black gem.