Bullying, Colorism and Girlhood: How Not to Raise Mean Daughters 

Aisha Cunningham, CEO and founder of The Black Therapist Network, said that bullying can be especially vicious in young girls and teens. 

Photo provided by Aisha Cunningham 

 

 

Brittany D. Harvey, a Detroit School of Arts school social worker, said that self-harm is not “uncommon” in the conversation on bullying 

Photo Credit: Smith’s Production IG:smithsproductions  

 

 

 

Lufuno Mavhunga. 

 

A beautiful 15-year-old South African girl, she took her life in mid-April after being mercilessly bullied and finding that her tortuous experience went viral on social media according to thegrio.com. 

 

“People bully because they want their power back. People bully because they feel powerless, and to get that power, you have to take it from somebody else,” Gabourey Sidibe was quoted saying. 

 

The 10th-grade student reportedly overdosed on pills after the video of her being slapped by a female classmate went viral across social media. The accused was standing trial at the time this article was written. 

 

According to the report, Lufuno was attacked after blocking her bullying classmate on various social media sites for sending her threatening messages. 

  

Nationwide in America, bullying hits home, too, sadly.  

  

One out of every five students report being bullied according to a 2019 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics. 

  

Other studies show that students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement and dropping out of school, according to the Centers for Disease Control 

Twenty-seven percent of bullied students indicate that bullying harms how they feel about themselves, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics  

  

The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics 

 

Locally, youth-related issues including teen angst, depression, suicide and other mounting challenges intersect in a storm of emotions that can result in bullying ranging from simple matters to complex ones like colorism, especially in the Black community. 

 

Aisha Cunningham, CEO and founder of The Black Therapist Network told The Michigan Chronicle that bullying over colorism, among other reasons, can hit hard and especially impact young girls and teens. 

 

“Our community is affected greatly by colorism, whether you are the individual spewing hateful comments or the individual internalizing the hateful comments, nobody wins in this situation. Both individuals have to shift their thinking,” she said, adding that colorism began and was perpetuated during slavery and is used in every race. “Young ladies are taught that the lighter you are, and the silkier your hair, the more attractive you are. It’s a lie based upon the standard of beauty this country upholds. All shades of brown are beautiful, all hair textures are good and all body shapes are acceptable.”  

 

She added that “colorism has always been here” and will continue to be within the Black community until “we as a people dismantle it ourselves.” 

 

“We can’t wait on anyone else to do it for us,” Cunningham said. 

 

Randy L. Jones, a strategic communications counselor at Detroit-based 1 Voice Communications, is a husband and father to two daughters. The Macomb resident said that coming from a family with a lot of women, he has experience helping raise his daughters to be the responsible, kind people they are today. 

 

His daughters, 19 and 16, are “both balanced” when it comes to issues of race and diversity and loving the next person regardless of what they look like while knowing “how to manage it when you encounter a fool.” 

 

Jones told The Michigan Chronicle that with last year’s tension-filled moments after George Floyd’s murder and other protest-worthy moments due to Black injustices, his daughters were emboldened activists who stood up for what was right. 

 

“As parents, you are proud of that,” he said, adding it’s important to raise daughters (and sons) to be true to themselves. “Live by the commandment or mindset you want to treat others as you want to be treated, period.” 

 

He added that you need to “stand up for what is right” like he raised his daughters to do. 

“They are bold and confident — they’ve got a heart just like their mom and me; they are givers and …want to change the world in a positive way whenever they can.” 

 

Local mental health ambassador Brittany D. Harvey, a Detroit School of Arts school social worker, is a darker-complected Black woman with a big smile who said that self-harm is not “uncommon” and part of a conversation that needs to be talked about when addressing depression and bullying. 

 

“I have noticed that it’s increasing — it is really important that we do address these topics as bullying and not just something happening in Africa but in our backyards and on the internet,” Harvey said. 

 

Harvey, 30, said that she was bullied for her brown skin tone and used to be uncomfortable in her skin until her late 20s when she learned to find her beauty outside of mainstream media. 

 

“I think it is really important for all women just to feel seen … and appreciate … who they are,” she said, adding that Brown girls, especially, will not always find their self-worth from external forces. 

 

“I love my skin now — I feel being melanated is one of the best lessons that happened to me,” she said, adding that girls need to be encouraged to stop bullying, “celebrate themselves” and know who they are. “They’re capable of being their complete self and that is where it starts… [if] you have the opportunity to give someone an opportunity to … raise more awareness… create this space of abundance.” 

 

If a teen needs help while facing bullying Text HOME to 741741 or message facebook.com/CrisisTextLine to chat with a Crisis Counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

 

For more information visit https://www.crisistextline.org. 

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