Facing Childhood and Adolescence in Iowa’s Cedar Valley: For You My Future Daughter

Abuse, Adolescence, Bullying, Childhood, Diversity, Facing Community Belonging and Citizenship from University of Northern Iowa (Waterloo, Iowa), Poverty, Racism, Teen Pregnancy

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Illustrated by: Hailey

Written by: Au Revoir

For you, my future daughter. I shall shower you with love. I will teach you right and wrong. I will protect you from harm. You will learn and grow in a world that doesn’t want you to succeed. You will learn to crawl in a world that wants nothing to do with you or what you stand for. You will take off your training wheels in a world that stacks everything against you. You will dress up for your school dances in a world that hates you because of the color you were born in. But for you, my future daughter, I’ll carry the moon and I’ll carry the sun, to make sure you’re happy.

Blinking in the light of a fluorescent hospital room, you are born into my loving arms. You are born into discrimination, hate, racism, and point blank intentions of sabotage and thorns. You are born into curfews, because girls like you can’t be outside when it’s dark. Girls like you can’t be out late till dawn, at parties with your friends. You can’t be out that late, what if you need a ride? You can’t walk home at night, what about the police? The people who will swear to protect you, but will kill you in the blink of an eye. You can’t possibly be out there till 3, because if something happens, when something happens, you will be one of the only people there with a caramel target on your skin. You can’t go to that side of town, where Tyrone hangs out with his friends, where they sling guns and smoke weed. Where they shoot bullets into the air and rep gang affiliations. Where stray bullets hit bystanders, babies who cannot see them coming. Where they jump each other, where they drink cough medicine out of styrofoam cups. You will not go where Shantay heard her man wanted to “get with you” and she’s grabbing onto your long, beautiful locks. Where the women are no longer focused on school work and are causing concussions.  Where there is a lone track on the ground, where there is a braid hanging from the light fixture. You were born into violence.

You giggle as I open my arms to you, your chubby tiny toes wiggle in excitement, you can’t wait to walk. But you don’t know you’re walking into stereotypes. Into the belief that you are loud and sassy and don’t take no for an answer. That you love to eat chicken and watermelon. That grape Kool-Aid is god’s gift to us. That you are bullheaded and arrogant, distant and ignorant. That weave is a necessity for you. That you will have kids in your teens, that you’ll have 3 baby daddies and live off of child support and food stamps. That your father will leave us, and your boyfriend will do the same to you. That you a savage monkey on the prowl for hot Cheetos and Carmax. That you own nothing but a smart mouth and a whole lot of sassy behavior. You are walking into stereotypes.

You teeter side to side, unsure if you’ll make it down the street. You grip your handlebars and  your small feet find their ways to the pedals. You are unsteadily riding into discrimination. Riding into the belief that you are less than a human because of your skin. Into the belief that someone is superior because of theirs. That you are nothing. That you shouldn’t vote. That you can’t do certain things, say certain things, achieve and accomplish certain things. The belief that you won’t be able to be what you want. That you will live off the government instead. And you are riding into hate. They will hate you for the melanin that darkens your complexion. The way your beautiful brown and black curls bounce off your shoulders. The way you resemble power, beauty, and grace. The way you were created beautiful. That you were created smart. People will try to justify the way they treat you. They will bring up christianity and they will bring up slavery and they will bring up the economy. They will tear your people down, because they are afraid of what they can accomplish. Afraid that one day you will grow into the strong, beautiful woman I am predicting you will. That one day, you will accomplish something they couldn’t. Something they think you shouldn’t. You’re riding into discrimination and hate.

You fix your dress for the 15th time, your espionage of the cute boy across the gym is perfect. Your hair is pretty and curled and this is your night. You ask him to dance and he complies. You are dancing to the rhythm of self hate. The fact that boys your color are no longer interested in the darker girls. They call you a monkey, a roach. “You’re too chocolate,” they exclaim. They are only interested in the light skin girls. The redbones. The girls with the lighter complexion. They will do this because it is seen as perfect. They are doing this because it is the closest to white without actually being it. They don’t want your african beauty. They don’t want your ebony perfection. And not only the boys, but the girls will too. They will call you burnt. They will poke fun about how you will never find a man. About how they will lose you in the dark. When they have been living in it all along. They will bleach their skin, try to scrub the black away. Because they hate their complexion. They hate it because everyone else does. Even people of their own race. Of their own struggle. You are dancing rhythm of self hate.

Your gown flows as you walk across the stage. I am cheering for you as you shake their hands. Your diploma hangs heavy in your hands. You are taking the next step in life. Stepping into pettiness. The pettiness that has settled itself in the belief of kanekalon hair. The white people will say, “Oh look, straight hair, she wants to be one of us.” And it will never be enough. Women will say, “Oh her weave is crusty. Oh does she not have enough hair? She just wants straight hair. She must be ashamed of her curls. Smh.” But as soon as you take it down they will exclaim, “ Ew her hair so short. Crusty edges. Nappy hair ew. She got dandruff. Her hair so rachet. She need to comb it. Why don’t you ever straighten it?” And not only this, but the boys. You will get into a relationship with them and they will fall in love with the way your hair falls over your eyes. Then you will take off your brazilian weave and they will react the same. Yet you will have insecurities about the length of it. So you will crochet it or wear tracks, for the social validation you so desperately crave. You are stepping into pettiness.

You sigh as the butterflies dance around in your gut. Your dress is a pearl white and your bouquet of roses paints a beautiful contrast against it. You walk down the aisle, your head held high. You are committing. You are committing to a lifetime of worry. The worry that you are simply too emotional. If you’re anything like your mother you’ll be told this often. That people will take your heart on your sleeve as a weakness. That you will be constantly shut down because people will somehow always have the power to turn the faucet that leads to your eyes. You will constantly be “in your feelings” but at the end of the day it’s not you. Surround yourself with people that won’t constantly put you down, that won’t constantly begin personal attacks on your sanity. You are committing to being played. Some guy out there’s gonna be so dumb to screw you over and lose a goddess. You need to be ready for that sorry son of a gun and be ready for the point where he tries to crawl back to you. You are committing to a lifetime of worry.

But everything in life won’t be negative. Everything might not just be about the struggle. You need to enjoy the beauty of life. Go out, live life. The world is your oyster. You are beautiful, you are kind, you are amazing. You are the future. You will write to your daughter, and she will write to hers. You my future daughter will enjoy every aspect of what the world has to offer you. You my future daughter will be loved. I will love you for you. I will support you for you. I will care for you. I will protect you. I will make sure you are groomed to perfection. You will be graceful, you will be who you want to be. You will be mine. Mine to love and care for like I say I will. Mine to cuddle during the rain. To carpool with your friends. To cherish. To take to the dances and the parties. To give you ice cream and pep talks as a boy takes you for granted. To tie your small shoes. To swing back and forth in my arms. To feed mashed peaches and pears. To hold in the hospital and look into your chocolate eyes. To provide for and to love unconditionally. I will carry the world for you. Move mountains for you. Make sure you are happy. I will do everything in my power to make sure you know you are special. I will make sure you know how much of a queen you are, and that you never give up or settle for less. That you say what is on your mind. That you never let anyone push you around. That you compromise where you can and don’t budge where you can’t. I will raise you right. I will do anything for you. Anything so that you are happy. Anything.

For you, my future daughter.

This story originally appeared in Facing Childhood and Adolescence in Iowa’s Cedar Valley, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the University of Northern Iowa in Waterloo, Iowa.

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