• Akili

Bananas, watermelons, monkeys and alligators...

I can't count the times that I have heard a TRA parent make comments about ads, clothing, products, etc... with pictures of bananas, watermelons, monkeys or alligators. There seems to be a level of concern of what will happen if their Black child dons these clothes, or even sees these images.


I recall one well meaning mother asking Target to remove the hair gel - Gorilla Snot, from their shelves because it had a picture of a gorilla on it, and she felt it was offensive to her child. The interesting thing was that the Target location told her they would do something about it. While that is an incredible example of power and privilege, what about the picture is offensive?


I know Black people that love this gel. None of them look like or are gorillas, so I am unclear what the actual problem is. Also, I have a daughter that likes phone cases with fruit on them...should I prevent her from getting one with bananas or watermelons? Why is it ok for children of other ethnicities to wear clothes or have products with these objects or animals on them?


Historically, we know that White people used Black babies as alligator bait, and that there were pictures everywhere depicting Black people as lazy, eating watermelons and fried chicken. We also know that there have been plenty of comparisons made (by White people) about how Black people resemble monkeys, and vice versa. Though science tells us that the original homosapians (what humans are classified as today) were Black people, and the Neanderthals (the cavemen), were not homosapians. These cave dwellers had more of a monkey-esque appearance with fair skin and straight hair.


Despite the horrific past and scientific discoveries we have to put things into context today. Is a banana or watermelon inherently bad? I see people buying them at the store, enjoying them as a wonderful treat. Kentucky fried chicken, Popeyes, Churches can't all be wrong. People love fried chicken.


The real issue is not the items, but the story people tell themselves when they see the items. As a coach, I never recommend you live your life based on other people's limiting beliefs, but it can be hard not to when you feel self-conscious about the decisions you are making as a new TRA parent. Instead I teach parents to do their work, bringing clarity about what is actually true, and then dismantling their stories or beliefs, especially about parenting and culture.


Be conscious of your intentions as a parent. What beliefs do you hold about these items? How do those beliefs relate to Black people? How does that impact the way you interact with or view your Black child?


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