Seen and Not Heard | Why Organizations like The Dinner Table are important for Black and Brown Girls
As a young child growing up in a Jamaican-American household, the phrase “a child must be seen not heard” has been reiterated to me by my parents and adults in my family.
As a child, when trying to convey my ideas, passions or vocalize my viewpoints, I was given a look or told to stay out of grown folks’ conversations. Children’s or young people’s opinions were not heard or mattered to adults. At a young age, that saying has stuck with me. Therefore, I became an introverted and quiet person. I never liked to talk because I was afraid that people wouldn’t like what I had to say or simply didn’t care about what I had to say. As I got older, I was told to speak up more and to vocalize my opinions, but how could I do that when I was told from a young age that my opinions didn’t matter? Then I wondered, is this how all young black and brown girls feel? Do they feel as if what they say doesn't matter?
participants, “when black girls express strong or contrary views, adults view them challenging authority or more fundamentally, simply assume a girl’s character is just plain ‘bad’.” Black and brown girls are mostly kicked out of class for being labeled as “disruptive” or “defiant” if they asked questions or simply participated in class discussions like normal students. This treatment does not just start at pre-teen or teen age. As we saw during the doll test used to support the historical Brown v. Board of Education case, white babies are preferred over black babies At 5 years old, black girls are seen as less innocent and provided less support than white girls their age, according to researchers. Can you imagine at 5 years old, a child is looked at as dangerous or is given less support just because of the color of their skin?
With Society telling black and brown girls to basically shut up, that they are not important, and with parents telling them that they are supposed to be “seen not heard”, the solution they find is to go to friends for support, guidance, and to just be themselves. However from what I’ve seen firsthand and dealt with personally, going to friends didn’t always turn out well. Many times personal business would end up on social media due to a fallout with a friend, pettiness, or we might even get wrong advice from our peers. Although we have received wrong guidance or support from friends, we still feel incapable of being ourselves in a society that refuses to give us recognition. By black and brown girls constantly being suppressed for being ourselves, debating to turn to friends, family, or even school for guidance, where or who can we consult when we feel alone in this world? Personally, one of the places I’ve found was my church, the Clarendon Road Church, where the youth pastor’s wife became my mentor and encouraged me to attend a women’s group. I was able to express myself with other girls who went through the same issues as me.
The second place I am also able to express and be myself is at the organization The Dinner Table. To take part in an organization such as this has given me the confidence and inspiration to achieve the goals and dreams I have for myself.
At a TEDxTalk, while discussing the importance of having safe spaces for black and brown children, Dr. Arlene Arias stated “safe spaces are spaces that offer opportunities for connection. Safe spaces serve as a refuge for black and brown bodies. In safe spaces, a person of color feels whole.” Organizations like The Dinner Table gives black and brown girls a safe space to release their feelings, get support and proper guidance, and allows them to just be ourselves. By giving black and brown girls a safe space to be ourselves, it will give us the confidence to believe that we can accomplish anything. We can follow the footsteps of former first lady Dr. Michelle Obama, astronaut Ellen Ochoa, activist Ava DuVernay, former representative Lleana Ros- Lehtinen, and Vice President elect Kamala Harris. We should recognize and have the support from people who look like us and have experienced those same circumstances.
I realize now that as a woman, specifically a black woman, I shouldn't let anything stand in my way of expressing myself. In fact, thanks to organizations such as The Dinner Table and the Clarendon Road Church, I continue to be empowered to become a Social Justice Attorney and one day open a community center for black and brown girls in my neighborhood. I hope to educate them about their worth or value in this world, and to give them the same opportunity and confidence The Dinner Table gave me. Therefore noticing and recognizing organizations like The Dinner Table who provides confidence, guidance, opportunities, and support to our black and brown girls is phenomenal. Their existence is pivotal to the strength and success of black and brown girls like myself!
Written By Brittany Thompson
Brittany Thompson is currently serving as a Set The Table Fellow for the 2020-2021 school year. " Set The Table aims to offer students personal and professional development along with hands on work experience through The Dinner Table's communications department. Assignments are usually in specific areas like social media, marketing and digital content production.