Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Little Black Girls Still Prefer White Dolls!

Kiri Davis is a 17-year old Black filmmaker, who recently shot a powerful documentary called A Girl Like Me. A Girl Like Me follows up on a 1940’s study that asked young Black girls if they preferred a white doll or a Black doll. Overwhelmingly, the Black children preferred the White doll.

Flash forward to today and little Blacks girls (4 to 5 years old and Harlem residents) are still voicing a preference for white dolls, despite how many Black/minority dolls are available on the market today. The study also found that these little girls are also associating “blackness” with the word “bad” and other negative feelings.

So, it begs the questions:

What is going on in Black households that many our beautiful children CONTINUE to corrolate "beauty" with whiteness? And, why must Black still "stay back"?

You know, I can remember babysitting a little girl (she was around 4 yeas old at the time) who told me that she didn’t want me to put her Black doll in the bathtub with her. She was having a party in the tub and only wanted the White dolls to come. When I tried to put the Black doll in the tub, she told me that the doll wasn’t “invited.” I asked her why and she told me the Black doll “fights a lot” and was “loud.” She refused to put it in the tub. I’d say the year was about 1988. I spent the entire bath time experience trying to get this little girl to say something nice about the Black doll. And, it never happened! We’ve still got a lot of work to do, as a people.

Getting back to A Girl Like Me, the film is about 7 minutes long and can be seen at: You can watch "A Girl Like Me" in its entirety at www.reelworks.org..

BLOGGER NOTE: I grew up in a household (poor and in the 70s) where we were not allowed to have White dolls because my mother wanted me and my two sisters to have dolls that looked like us. We had an entire family of Black dolls, from the baby to the gray-haired grandparents! We had Black Polly Pretend dolls and Black Dancerella dolls. I don’t remember ever feeling I was supposedly missing out on something, by not having the latest doll—in the White version. Although I will admit that my sisters and I did have one Barbie accessory—the Barbie townhouse—which was used as a place for our Black dolls!

But, it wasn’t just about dolls in my house. My mother also painted/colored any White faces on our birthday cards, so they would look like little brown-skinned girls. She’d do the same with decorations. Our Santa was Black. And, Jesus looked just like us!

Early childhood images and other factors shape our perceptions of ourselves and our race.

What is your childhood experience with dolls and “blackness” as you were growing up? Did you receive positive reinforcement on your race, including on defying standards of typical beauty? Or, was race a non-topic in your household? What do you tell your daughters, nieces, etc. about standards of beauty/appearance?

6 Comments:

Blogger Spiderwoman said...

My mother made sure I had black dolls as well. However, it still didn't keep me from internalizing racism, although it did help. I think every black parent should read bell hook's Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem. It gives a very through, detailed account of the subtle and insidious ways that racism effects the psyche of African Americans.
As African Americans were are bombarded by a society that is not for us, diminishes us and dismisses us. Even for the strongest most aware person of African descent this can be daunting. For those of us who work in predominately white environments, dealing with every day nuances of navigating around white people with an "inferiority complex" (I say this because no one who feels good about themselves would perpetuate racists behaviors), can leach the soul.
This video was very powerful but not surprising to me. In the 60's the mantra of the day became, "I'm Black and I'm proud." We were saying it but we didn't believe it. Saying it, yelling it was defintely a start and now we need to began to internalize all or good and release the misplaced shame that is heaped upon us.
Giving your child a Black doll is a start and there has to be more than that. I give much, much love to any parent who has a black child who is completely self-loving in a society/world which continues to demonize us.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Tijuana said...

The other night my husband and I got into a verbal altercation because, I told him I was going to take back the white dolls that were given to our daughtes for the holidays, and replace them with black dolls. His arguement was that it does not matter what color the doll is, we have a Black president, those race issues don't exist anymore. My truth is that, little girls love their dolls, and they need to love dolls that look like themselves. In addition to the dolls, they also need to stop watching so much tv (which shuts down the left side of the brain), go to more African American events, we need to teach them more about African American contribution to america and the world and teach them that their skin is beautiful and they should love themselves first. He still thinks I need to open up my mind. I know that self love comes first. Despite his usless, foolish arguement, my daughters are very well grounded in their beauty, and even my 4 year old prefers her beautiful brown skin over anything else. My 9 year olds perception is Black is beautiful, and even though she attends a predominantly caucasion school, she faces and deals with racism which makes her likes them less and love herself more. Yes she gets her reinforcement from me, she had to learn at a very early age that: She will never be white and should not want to be white
There will be ignorant blacks and whites every where you go, so if you don't love yourself, respect yourself, protect yourself and accept yourself, you will be eaten alive by hate. Stand strong in your Blackness. You are beautiful.

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other night my husband and I got into a verbal altercation because, I told him I was going to take back the black dolls that were given to our daughters for the holidays, and replace them with white dolls. His argument was that it does not matter what color the doll is, we have a Black president, those race issues don't exist anymore. My truth is that, little girls love their dolls, and they need to love dolls that look like themselves. In addition to the dolls, they also need to stop watching so much tv (which shuts down the left side of the brain), go to more White American events, we need to teach them more about White American contribution to america and the world and teach them that their skin is beautiful and they should love themselves first. He still thinks I need to open up my mind. I know that self love comes first. Despite his useless, foolish arguement, my daughters are very well grounded in their beauty, and even my 4 year old prefers her beautiful brown skin over anything else. My 9 year olds perception is White is beautiful, and even though she attends a predominantly negro school, she faces and deals with racism which makes her likes them less and love herself more. Yes she gets her reinforcement from me, she had to learn at a very early age that: She will never be black and should not want to be black!








Lady, listen to your husband.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whom ever said that woman should listen to her husband is an idiot. We have enough low self esteem AA womenin the world because of this color struck nonsense. Racism is real and is always going to be here no matter who our president is.

2:58 AM  
Blogger Lisa C said...

After I finish crying, I will send my comment.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll always remember one VERY vivid moment. When I was around 4 or 5 years old I had a blonde haired Barbie-like doll. One day while in my room which was lit up with bright daylight I picked up the doll, pulled off it's head and arms then tossed it to the floor. No psychoanalysis needed!!!!!

4:43 PM  

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