I got my hair cut the other day, and a little girl was also having her hair done. She was African-American, a real cutie, around 4 years old. We were on opposite sides of the salon and were flirting with each other in the mirrors. She was there with her white mother, and it turns out she was adopted.
A couple of things struck me. First, the little girl was having her hair ironed straight, and her mom kept saying to her, "Don't you just love it when your hair is straight?" Hmmmm.
Second thing, the (white) stylist working on her hair kept telling her she looked "just like a little Beyonce!" Then came the stereotypical comments, "I bet you're a great dancer, just like Beyonce, right?" And when the little girl finally climbed out of the chair, "Show me a little dance!" No comment from mom.
Nothing to complain about here, right? Who could complain when her child is compared to Beyonce -- after all, Beyonce is gorgeous!
But that little scenario illustrated for me how stereotypes are reinforced, how limitations on what and who you should be are determined and conveyed based on your race. How insidious these reinforcements are. How pervasive these racial microaggressions are. When it starts when you're 4 years old -- before you're 4 years old -- how do you resist? And when it comes from your own family, how do you survive with a positive racial identity intact?