Humans come in so many colors. So should dolls. Children, no matter their color, race, culture, or heritage, should be able to open their toy box and have the choice to play with African-American dolls. We live in a world of diversity that needs to be represented in the toys we give to our kids. This concept should not be an afterthought. Rather, African-American dolls need to be a part of every child’s collection because this is how we communicate to our kids that all people deserve to be celebrated and represented. When we fail to do this, we unknowingly send a message that only people with fair skin matter and that black dolls are not part of the narrative of their play.
Let’s throw out outdated practices and start changing the way the new generation processes their thoughts and conversations when it comes to race and color. Let’s normalize the fact that African-American dolls deserve space in our child’s toy collections because African-American people deserve space in our lives. If your child is NOT African-American...buy them African-American dolls! African-American dolls represent a large portion of people that have traditionally been misrepresented, pushed down, and ignored. We, as parents and caregivers, must take it upon ourselves to be inclusive of the African-American population by including black dolls of all shades on our children’s toy shelves from the time they are little. This sends our kids a powerful message that black is beautiful and that African-American’s are worthy of our friendship and love.
Kids thrive in an atmosphere of inclusion! They are not born with racial prejudice, so let’s not allow it to be instilled by subtle exclusions. Embrace this opportunity to teach your child that we are all a part of the human family and that no matter what someone’s color is, they are important, fun, and should be included in our circle.
If your child IS African-American...buy them African-American dolls!
If your child is African-American, it may seem obvious to buy African-American dolls for them. But oftentimes this is actually overlooked because white dolls are either perceived as being better or are just more plentiful. Don’t fall into that trap. Help your child embrace the beauty of their skin color by providing them with dolls that match not only their skin tone, but those of others in the African-American community. All kids love to own dolls that look like them, dress like them, have similar hair styles, or represent something about their character or personality. African-American children need dolls like this to help them identify with their own story. These kinds of dolls really do make a difference in how they process their thoughts and play out their imaginations.
Beautiful child-like dolls that look realistic are the very best type of African-American dolls to include in your child’s collection because these are what represent children best. The idea is to give them context in their childhood, not to present a fashionista black doll that looks like a model or an adult. A few years ago, I took my children to visit the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. It was an eye-opening visit and here we learned about the infamous “Doll Test” done by Doctors Kenneth and Mamie Clark that showed the psychological effects of school segregation. What a terribly sad narrative!
In this test, young African-American children were given the option of choosing a black doll or a white doll to play with to test racial perceptions. “The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem.”
“We learned with the Master’s work of Bentley Gibson that the majority of African American preschoolers of the Obama era continue to prefer playing and identifying with a white rather than a black doll of the same gender.”
This tells us that we still have much work to do and that we must be vigilant in changing the mindsets of not only our children and upcoming generations, but toymakers, parents, teachers, and society in general.
Let’s combat pervasive racism by starting with the simple act of making sure that black kids feel included, loved, wanted, and needed by making realistic black dolls a normal part of every person’s childhood. This is a topic that we need to talk about and make a pointed effort to target so that in the future, we can feel the difference we are making.
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