During the holidays, many parents purchased dolls for their children. There are many types of dolls available on the market but the question is when representation matters, what race of dolls do Black parents purchase for their Black children? In this case, is diversity best or not?
It is important that your children have dolls that look like them, and not just white dolls. When I was a young girl, there weren’t a large selection of dolls of color and I never cared what doll I got from my parents, as long as it was a toy. Then one day, my older cousin found our Christmas presents a few weeks before Christmas. Through a crack in the door, we peered into the basement closet. My cousin was sure to point out the two dolls. They were the very same brand, everything was exactly the same about the dolls, except one was white and the other was Black. She said to me in the most annoying voice possible, “The white doll is mine, and the ugly Black doll is yours.” I instantly felt some sort of angst. Then Christmas morning came and I became the most unappreciative child because I received the “ugly Black doll.” It took me an extremely long time to appreciate my own Blackness and to see the beauty in Black dolls. This incident recently pinged home when my four-year-old granddaughter, who is being raised Afrocentric, told her mother that all of her white dolls are prettier than her Black dolls. I demanded to know who told her that. Do we stop buying her white dolls now? I immediately sought out the most beautifully painted Black dolls I could find, and I found some, but they weren’t for sale or were expensive collector type Barbie dolls, not the type a four-year-old would play with.
The Clark and Clark Doll Study showed the inherent biases in young children, both Black and white.
During the holidays, this video surfaced showing a child with high self-esteem identity and some people had a problem with it. Many called it reverse racism, which really doesn’t exist. You have to be in the majority of power to be a racist. It is the definition of the word. Biased, maybe, but so was the Clarke Test with white children. It would be more of a problem for any white children who identified the doll negatively as white. You make your own judgment but this young child sees herself in this doll and identifies herself positively. No hate. Just self-love.
How does one foster a positive identity using black dolls?
- Foster the positive identity of your child. Buy a majority of black dolls. If you want diversity, maintain the majority of exceptionally beautiful black dolls of different skin tones and make sure at least one looks similar to your child. Check out the gorgeous dolls on Instagram from Africarbie, although they are not for sale yet, her bio reads to stay tuned. Also, DollAnatomy.com has beautiful dolls of color.
- When purchasing a doll family unit, princesses, etc., purchase the Black doll versions that are available.
- When purchasing clothing with cartoons, purchase those with black images like Suri from the Black Panther or Tiana from the Princess and the Frog.
We first have to teach our children that it’s okay to love themselves and that they are beautiful inside and out. Building a child’s self-esteem takes daily effort. It doesn’t happen by osmosis. You have to tell them how great they really are and show them why they should have pride in themselves, their family and in their community.