Do Black Dolls Matter?

She Matters: We may be missing the big picture when we criticize gifts sent to poor girls in Africa.

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It is important as women — and girls, too — that we have images that reflect us in all our magnificent brown glory. And that includes the dolls, which our daughters clutch and cherish. But sometimes we need to step back and see the clichéd forest instead of just the trees. I might have raised an arched brow at Agnan’s photo, but I wouldn’t have criticized her actions.

Two years ago I visited Port-au-Prince in Haiti, a country that is 95 percent black. It was leading up to Christmas, and the toy displays were front and center in the supermarket. There were no black dolls. I’d been there five days and hadn’t seen one white child as I traveled through the city. I relayed my observation to a friend with whom I was traveling, who looked at me blankly and rolled his eyes at my angst at my First World concern. 

“D, you’re talking about the color of dolls, and some kids don’t even have toys,” he said. “You’d rather they don’t have a doll at all than have a white one?”


Agnan was trying to do a good thing, trying to put a smile on a young girl’s face just because. And she handled the criticism with class.

“Anyone trying to tell me what gifts I should be giving, I will give the chance to do the giving,” Agnan posted on Instagram. “I’m saving your info and will be contacting you once I get back to receive the black-people gifts you will rather I give away in Africa. You will get the chance to show me your giving hearts by sending the gifts to my office in [Atlanta].”

I hope those who were critical of Agnan’s good intentions will take her up on the offer and not just complain in front of their computer screens.

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.