As good as watching “Black Is King” on a loop sounds, Gabrielle Union knows that’s not enough to make her kids feel proud of who they are.
The actress opened up in a recent personal essay about how she and her husband, NBA legend Dwyane Wade, are making sure their three kids get more than a crash course in “shameless self-love,” as she calls it.
Writing for Elle, the “Bring It On” star revealed how much it impacted her growing up to not see Black role models in her daily life or in pop culture.
“You’ve never seen yourself reflected: not in teachers, not in coaches, not in the magazines,” she wrote. She named school in particular, as the place where kids spend the most amount of their time, as “a place for self-loathing to build up.”
Research shows that when Black children don’t see positive media representation of people who look like them, they typically have poorer self-esteem.
To make sure her kids never feel like she did, Union says she is intentionally sending her daughters, Kaavia, two, and Zaya, 13, to diverse schools.
“What I’m trying to do with our two daughters is understand that if I cannot provide a school environment that is as diverse as the global population, I have to do more to constantly make sure the girls are reaffirmed,” she wrote.
Union added that it wasn’t enough to give her girls something to read or have them watch Beyonce’s film “Black Is King:” “We have to surround them with additional teachers they may not see at school ... part of that is constantly reaffirming their Blackness outside of them, so they can constantly see themselves in the flesh, mirroring what we’re teaching at home.”
Union has been praised before for her parenting values and actions, including her unconditional embracing of Zaya’s gender euphoria and the way she has prioritized the teen’s wellbeing over all.
Importance of Black educators
What Union is doing with her family is playing out for Canadian families too. There’s a large race gap when it comes to the diversity of teachers in Canadian schools, with one school board in London, Ont. reporting only one per cent of teachers are Black last year. Around 15 per cent of London’s population is Black, according to Statistics Canada.
It’s undeniable this has an impact on children, as many Canadian schools have a long track record of failing Black students; Toronto Star reporter Angelyn Francis’ ongoing coverage on Blackness and the education system show that in many cases, educators take it upon themselves to fix curriculums that don’t do justice to important issues or those that only pay superficial nods to Black contributions during February.
Groups like the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators and Canadian Black Educators are committed to enrich kids’ learning experiences, Black students in particular. OABSE’s website notes that it seeks to give Black educators a stepping stone for leadership positions that will influence policy.
Until more schools are committed to Black-affirming education, following in Union’s example can be a way for parents of Black kids to encourage as much shameless self-love as possible.
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