“For a long time I felt that as a black girl I had to grow up so quickly that I didn’t have time to fully enjoy my childhood,” Stampmedia editor Patricia Da Costa wrote in a candid column..
As a kid, I had obligations that all of my other white friends didn’t. From an early age I took care of my brothers and sisters. When I was eight years old I picked them up from school and was a babysitter and a duty officer. If something went wrong, it was my fault. As I got older, the obligations piled up. I think I started helping with the housework at the age of 11. Around the age of 13, I had to watch in the kitchen learning how to cook. My first dish was rice.
When I was fourteen, my mother took a good look at my wardrobe. I had to dress more feminine in order to look more mature. My “childish” clothes were banned from the closet. I vividly remember my mother taking me to the adult women’s section to choose clothes that she thought were appropriate for my age. I also remember staring, embarrassed. Not long after, the first comments about my body followed. “You look very mature for your age” and “Your curves have grown, Patricia.” Again very inconvenient. In response, she begins to wear more concealed clothing.
At the same time, I was increasingly confronted with stereotypes about black women in the media. We are grumpy, loud, untidy and come from a ghetto. Even though I was the exact opposite of myself, those clichés seemed to stick to me. By pushing myself into the background, I hoped to change that.
When I was 14 years old, I had to dress more feminine in order to look like a mature woman. I am no longer allowed to wear my “childish” clothes.
At fifteen, I felt I had outgrown most of my peers. I couldn’t laugh at the things they thought were hilarious, and for the most part I just thought it was very childish. I didn’t really feel like I belonged to the class. Since I had to grow up quickly, I didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy my childhood. This really made me not like going to school.
I am now 21 years old and only have I realized that the above situations are examples of coming of age and what effect this has on my mental health. Only now do I realize that it is not normal for me to always have to mediate between my parents and take care of my younger brother and sister. I’m still in the process of “ignoring” rules and obligations that I’ve considered normal for a long time. The thing is: I’m not an isolated case. Many black girls are brought up, seen and treated as adults, and their childhoods are taken away from them through a series of strict obligations and standards about how they should look and express themselves.
Only now do I realize what progress has done to my mental health
The coming of age of black girls is a phenomenon that has played a role in our modern society since slavery. During the enslavement of blacks, this was expressed through the employment of young black girls as soon as they were “old”. They had to work in the fields or help out in the household of a slave master. Then, when the girls were “mature”—when their period came—they were sold or married off. The process was later repeated with their children. Even though slavery was abolished long ago, puberty for black girls is still a thing. As long as we are not aware of this phenomenon, it will continue for a very long time.
I recently saw one tweet Transfer emotional incest. A strong term used to refer to an adult using a child for emotional gratification. The child is forced to emotionally support adults, which leads to a blurring of the boundaries between parent and child. Think of parents who use their children as mediators in conflicts, ask them questions about adult matters or prevent their children from making friends.
According to the Beyond Addiction website, this can have far-reaching consequences. Children do not learn their own limits. They take on too many responsibilities for themselves. Such children often end up in difficult and even toxic relationships later in life. They often develop fears of abandonment and commitment, and a feeling of not being good enough.
I believe and hope that stereotypes about black girls and women will gradually fade away, but that won’t be until tomorrow
It is important to know that there are phenomena such as “puberty” and “emotional incest” and that black girls are relatively affected by them. I hereby appeal to black girls to bring back their childhood. I believe and hope that stereotypes about black girls and women will gradually fade away, but that won’t be until tomorrow. It is important to realize that it is a systemic problem. We will first have to look within ourselves and see if we are not subconsciously perpetuating the phenomenon ourselves. We also had to actively inform other people about this.