A Checklist for Keeping Your Black Daughter Safe

How I protect her from Covid-19, police brutality, and sex trafficking

Photo: Eye for Ebony/Unsplash

The news is jarring this week, so perhaps you saw — or didn’t see — the story of the Black family in Aurora, Colorado, who were pulled over by police, had guns pulled on them, and told to lay face down on the ground while police investigated a stolen car call. The youngest child on the ground was a six-year-old wearing a pink princess tiara. Her family members ranged in age up to 17. Turns out the police pulled over the wrong car — they should’ve been looking for a stolen motorcycle instead.

Police told the mom they apologized for their actions and would provide for counseling for her children. But the damage was done. This is the story of 2020, it seems. At the same time, this isn’t new. Being Black while parenting has always been challenging given that we have to navigate systemic racism and bias, and now Covid-19, while also teaching our little ones how to navigate this themselves and protect them as best possible from this sometimes cruel and unforgiving world. After viewing the latest news of how Black girls are treated, I drifted back to those nights when my own daughter was an infant and I put her to bed. How do we as Black mothers protect our daughters when we live in a world where we are unsure of how to protect ourselves?

When my daughter was first born, we lived in a small, rural, conservative town in Missouri that was around 70% White. While driving down any given street, it was common to see a Confederate flag waving in the wind. When I returned to work, I remember how stressful it was to find a daycare for my daughter, who was six months old at the time. The thought of leaving her in the care of a stranger in that place — with its open displays of racism — was horrifying. Luckily, we found an amazing daycare that took excellent care of her, but I later realized that this birth was my introduction to the profound worry, and at times, unrelenting unrest that many Black mamas wrestle with while raising a Black daughter.

When most women find out that they’re pregnant, worrying about their daughter going to a racist daycare, going missing, or being brutalized or harmed by law enforcement is likely the last thing on their minds. But it needs to be. Outside of the Aurora incident, it’s useful to consider a few others. There’s the 11-year-old middle school girl who was body-slammed for taking one too many cartons of milk from the school cafeteria during lunch. And the 15-year-old high schooler who was grabbed by the neck and then thrown to the ground by school police and the 14-year-old Black teenager who was punched repeatedly and pinned to the ground by police. Even worse, the heart-wrenching story of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl who was shot and killed while sleeping on the couch when police raided the wrong apartment.

Another unexpected concern for many Black mothers is the sad reality that Black girls are more likely to be sex trafficked than any racial group. When cases of missing Black girls went viral on social media in 2017, the Black community expressed deep concern about what seemed to be a new phenomenon — except it wasn’t. Historically, the number of missing cases of Black girls have been overwhelmingly high for over a decade. The only difference between 2017 and prior years is visibility via social media.

When most women find out that they’re pregnant, worrying about their daughter one day being brutalized or harmed by law enforcement is likely the last thing on their minds.

As of 2019 between 63,000 and 75,000 Black women and girls had gone missing in the U.S. and it’s reported that almost half of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are Black girls. Because Amber Alerts are reserved only for abductees, in cases where it’s suspected that the child has run away law enforcement will not issue an Amber Alert. Making matters worse, research suggests that some law enforcement tend to inaccurately categorize cases of missing Black girls as runaways, which decreases the intensity of action given to those who have been abducted or who are otherwise endangered. These factors only add to the frustration and angst that many Black mothers sometimes experience while trying to protect their daughters from harm.

The recent surge in coronavirus cases adds another concern for many Black mothers. Blacks make up over 20% of confirmed Covid-19 cases compared to 37% of Whites, while Blacks only account for about 14% of the U.S. population. Similar disparaging statistics indicate that Black people are more likely to be hospitalized and to die from the virus. Although there is conflicting information about how the virus impacts children, we do know the number of confirmed cases is also increasing among children. What does a mother do with that?

So, how does a Black mother protect her baby girl from harm when she is also at-risk herself? I’ve come up with this checklist for myself.

1. Never leave your daughter alone in a car.

2. Monitor your daughter’s social media use and check websites for registered sex offenders in your neighborhood.

3. Be sure to teach your daughter her name, address, important phone numbers, and how and when to dial 911 at an early age.

4. Teach your daughter how to run to safety and that it’s okay to be rude to an adult if she feels unsafe.

5. Discuss the difference between an “okay” secret and a “not okay” secret.

6. Talk to your daughter about real-life incidents of sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and kidnapping.

7. Teach your daughter to scream, bite, kick, and fight like hell if someone tries to take or to touch her inappropriately.

8. When it comes to Covid-19, the best way to protect our daughters is to make sure that they wear a face mask or a shield whenever outside. Face shields might be the best option because they can be easily cleaned, they cover the entire face, and they make it harder for kids to touch their nose, mouth, and eyes.

9. Social distancing is key with kids—especially when it comes to strangers.

We will not be able to protect our daughters from all forms of harm, but we can do certain things to help reduce the likelihood of them being victimized — and it starts at home. Make it a priority to be present in your daughter’s life and to develop strong communication with her from an early age. Build a relationship that is grounded in love and support, and trust your instincts. In the process, take a breath and be kind to yourself. You got this, mom! And I do too.

Professor, Forbes Contributor, Race Scholar, Activist, Therapist, Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Wife, Mother, & Addict of Ice Cream &Cheese. www.drmaiahoskin.com

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