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What exactly are we teaching our children? In most instances we are teaching them that it is okay to exist in a hypocritical society, where we claim to be a Christian nation but we appear to be more immoral in our actions. Our children should be taught how to love and care for themselves and others, but instead Bahamians usually compel their children to hate each other by uttering racial slurs among siblings, diminishing self worth and bringing forth feelings of inferiority because of skin color, and hair texture. The lack of positive images of black people in everyday life has minimized our children's view of ethnicity. After reading Raquel Lightbourn's essay “Confessions of a Tar Baby” I was overwhelmed with feelings of empathy, and then I had a flood of flashbacks from my own childhood, because I too was teased as an adolescent. I feel Bahamian parents should purchase racially and culturally appropriate dolls and toys for their children because having them will help to raise their self esteem, encourage Bahamian pride, and teach them about individualism.
Self-esteem is the mixture of feelings we have about ourselves, how we define ourselves, develop our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors. Here in the Bahamas scores of people have practically left our youth to stumble upon self-worth on fictional TV shows and advertisements. Providing our children with ethnically appropriate dolls will give them a much needed positive image of black Bahamian females and males. Having these dolls will raise their self-esteem by showing them a normal view of what our bodies should look like as opposed to other toys that present a distorted image of our physical self. Our children will learn through having these dolls that we are proud of ourselves as black Bahamians and acknowledge our achievements enough to create dolls that honor successful people in our communities, thus boosting the self esteem of our children to aspire to achieve more in life. Lightbourn wrote in paragraph 9 about segregation in the classroom and how mixed race individuals are cherished in the Caribbean; this could be as a result of advertisements. In most advertisements for hair relaxers the child is frequently of mixed race. I recall as a child envying that individuals appearance because of her light skin and straight hair and my confused perceptions of beauty and acceptance. The idea of having a doll that is an adult is to help children explore what they would like to be when they are adults. Would you want your children to idolize toy dolls like Barbie and the Hulk? Several dolls and toys are created in the Bahamas that personify Bahamian culture. These dolls do not present a negative image of black Bahamians, but they are not produced on a large scale or with the Bahamian child in mind, and those that are available are often marketed only to tourists.
Bahamian pride is Junkanoo. Not just the parade, but the many months before when born junkanoo participants take off time to go to the “shack”. I believe that most of them would be glad to give their children culturally appropriate dolls like a junkanoo doll if someone financed their production. I recall when the Golden Girls won gold medals at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000; every Bahamian was bouncing with pride. But after returning home, there weren't many commercial opportunities open to them, and no one thought of making a Debbie Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Sevatheda Fynes, Pauline Davis-Thompson, and Eldece Clark-Lewis doll. If someone had, that would have been a good opportunity to showcase Bahamian pride with authentic images of Bahamian people who have accomplished something great that is recognized worldwide. Those dolls would have given our children something to look forward to becoming one day. In paragraph 11 Lightbourn points out that the mentality of Bahamians is beginning to change and that we “seem” to be prouder of our African heritage, but I disagree because we are still bombarding our children with dolls and toys that in no way depict characters that are ethnically suitable or rouse feelings of cultural pride. During the Christmas season Barbie dolls and action figures are pretty much grabbed off the shelves. I think a good idea for toys for Bahamian children would be a doll, made of straw, with clothing made of androsia print, and her hair could be adorned with seashell barrettes. Another doll could be made to represent Bahamian folklore characters like B'Boukee and B'Rabby. We could advertise these toys to the Bahamian people and children and in doing so we will be giving our children positive images of self, and instilling Bahamian pride by providing them with toys that are authentically Bahamian.
Bahamian children should to be taught about individualism and its importance in any society. In Paragraph 10 Lightbourn stated that “I tried to mimic hairstyles I'd seen in Seventeen or Glamour, hoping to find acceptance” It is clear that she was not exercising individualism. Instead she wholly overlooked the importance of it and proceeded to represent herself in the same manner as the individuals (comprised predominately of Caucasian individuals) she had seen in those magazines. Most Bahamians have become comfortable being cultural copycats and as a result the future generations are following that same pattern. Lightbourn wrote in paragraph 11 that “I'm beginning to get past those misconceptions and appreciate beauty in all people and to look inward for a stronger, more lasting beauty that no one's perception can erase” Lightbourn is conveying her newly discovered sense of individualism and acceptance of herself and others based upon their individual characteristics. It is important to show a child that it is okay to be themselves, and to be proud and strong as the individuals they are. The key is encouraging them to accept others as they are. Everyone is unique. Giving Bahamian children dolls that show it is ok to be unique in your opinions and styles would help our children to accept their individuality. Dolls could be made that are unique in their appearance, they could wear African clothing, hair locks, have different facial features and black skin tones. We could make dolls that have moral messages that inspire children to believe in themselves and accept their uniqueness as individuals. These dolls could also be given Bahamian African names that are all different and wonderful. Children should be taught how to think, not what to think. And giving them dolls and toys that help them understand the diversity of different individuals will definitely help them to accept their own individualism as a person. The former Deputy Prime Minister continues to reside in an area which many would consider to be a ghetto despite the fact that she has held a high position in society. Patricia Glinton a known Bahamian writer focuses on writing about Bahamian life and folklore. The parents of Bahamian children can make the awareness of individuality known to the their children long before they have the opportunity to become reliant on the acceptance of others by self modifications that lead to heckling because of the bleaching of their skin. We must make available to them a line of toys that exhibit a model of individuals in Bahamian life who stay true to themselves and confident in their capabilities and exceptionality.
The Bahamian children are the future of this country and parents are responsible for providing them with the most effective upbringing. Having culturally appropriate dolls and toys help, because they are attractive role models with whom their children can identify, and that is good. But at the end of the day, most children learn best by the example of their parents, so be mindful of the image you exhibit in their presence. Make it a priority to teach them how to love themselves, accept their individuality, and to be proud of their nationality and country. After all we are only as strong as our commitment to change the overall outlook of our children to a brighter one.