Why Black Dolls Are a Big Deal

Laura Beck says that the issue behind whether girls have dolls that look like them is really about whose childhood counts and who is worth investing in. 

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Writing at Jezebel, Laura Beck recalls having a meltdown as a white 5-year-old who found only black dolls in one particular toy store.

That unusual experience, she says, speaks to the value of little girls having dolls that look like them -- and the larger issues revealed by the fact that black and brown children often don't. 

... That's what this is really about -- whose childhood counts; who is worth investing in. That's why a little girl with origins in the Indian subcontinent is playing with three blond Barbies and feeling "less than" should make us hang our heads in shame. Making sure kids of all colors play with these under represented dolls of color is not an empty gesture or stupid political correctness -- it hits girls when their sense of self is developing. This is not conjecture; if we look back at theKenneth and Mamie Clark doll experiments from the late 30s/early 40s, it's clear to see that children are affected by race and the dolls they play with. These experiments were repeated more recently with similar results ...

Moreover, the expectation is that dolls will look like me. But we need to change that expectation; white girls need to play with dolls of every color so that they can grow up to be thoughtful white women. We live in a culture that values white people and their experiences highest of all, and investing in diversifying their first interactions with media and toys can go a long way to teaching them that the world is filled with all sorts of people ...

None of us lives in some bubble where racism doesn't affect us. My 16-month-old mixed-race niece lives with me, and I love her so much that it makes me finally understand why parents are OK with their 30-year-old kids living in the basement -- I never want to not be with her. I have the privilege (for lack of a better word) to live a life that doesn't include being a target of racist hate. I want my niece to know what that's like, too. That's how I know black dolls matter. 

Read more at Jezebel.

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