Last night, my fourth-grade daughter stayed up later than usual, finishing up her "A Woman I Admire" essay. She went on the computer and searched for images of Raven Symone, her inspiration, and printed them out. My daughter loves Raven because Raven acts, sings and designs clothing. She is not skinny and she is not afraid to be brown. And she is one of the only young women on mainstream television that look like my daughter.
This morning, as I was driving my girls to school, the fourth-grader looked at the picture of Raven Symone in her hands, crumpled it up and put it in her pocket. In a soft voice, she said, "Sometimes people say Raven is ugly." Then she looked up at me and I could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. "I don't think I'm going to talk about Raven, Mommy."
Even as my heart was breaking and I was doing all I could to remind my daughter of her beauty in the minutes before she headed off to school, I knew I had lost this battle. So much of this is bigger than I am. But I was reminded, with a surge of remembered pain, why I write what I write -- to counter some of what my girls see in the world, every minute of every day.
It will wear at them and they will not come out unscathed. But I can do my best to teach them how to fight. And part of that, I can do through my stories.