Starting Young

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012

I have a personal beef with a certain kind of mother. The mother who thinks it’s cute to bejewel her baby son’s ears with swap-meet brand cubic zirconium. The mother who doesn’t mind draping her five-year-old daughter in sequined Apple Bottom tees and over-styled Baby Phat jeans. The mother who only cornrows her young son’s hair and refuses to let go of any length, lest he actually look like a boy. This is an all too common, if not disturbing, practice where unwitting Black children are forced to emulate their parent’s brand of narcissism, setting them up to aspire to a superficial, sexualized, and limiting ideal that solely pertains to popular, hip hop culture. This materialistic, “hoodrich” mentality is therefore continually perpetuated and sadly, passed on to future generations.

Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock can see how society is encouraging the acceleration of sexuality in children. It pervades all aspects of consumption, especially clothing, which can be the most damaging given its necessary prevalence. But in the Black community, children are being indoctrinated early into materialistic trends that are indicative of short-sighted and shallow qualities exemplified in the kind of media that parents most likely wouldn’t want their children seeing in the first place. The message is unapologetically obvious whereby women are objectified and made to feel “empowered” by brandishing as much flesh as possible, and wearing brands that communicate nothing more than capricious monetary value. Men are made to play the role of player/pimp/baller with very few admirable qualities outside of this oftentimes dubious facade.

I see a little boy, not yet old enough to read, in a black fitted (with the sticker still on) jeans slightly oversized for his small frame, an equally oversized branded tee, finished off with a costumey chain medallion, and I cringe a little. It’s even more upsetting when I see little girls in prepubescent club wear, i.e. jeans with embellishments and logos printed on the back pocket as to draw attention to certain body parts. A brand like Apple Bottoms was originally marketed towards women with curvier “apple bottom” figures. Baby Phat, the progeny of Phat Farm, can easily pass for hooker gear. Each brand has spawned a children’s line which anyone should find questionable given its precedence. It’s as if parents fail to realize that they’re boxing their offspring in, helping to solidify the overvalue and worship of looks and money, and the devaluing of intellect and inner beauty.

I can remember when I was 8-years-old and my mom would make me wear this jumpsuit I wasn’t particularly fond of. It bore an all-over hounds tooth print with a wide bib-like collar decked with multicolored, large buttons. As much as I wanted to look grown, this was what was chosen for me. And since I was a child, it made sense. So what happened to the days when kids weren’t walking billboards and wore clothes that didn’t convey genre or status?

- Princess Glover

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