I’m White, My Daughter is Latina, and I Buy Black Dolls

I’m White, My Daughter is Latina, and I Buy Black Dolls

I have to admit, when I was a kid I probably never really thought about buying a Black doll. I don’t recall if I’d ever even seen one as a child, but I can tell you that it’s a very important subject for me now.

I’ve had some people ask, “Why are you buying Black dolls for your daughter? She’s not even Black!”

This question on it’s own is extremely irritating, but it’s even more obnoxious when you factor in that the people often asking it are “progressives” who consider themselves “definitely not racist.”

Some backstory…

I grew up in a white family during the 1980-90′s.  My parents thought they were doing a great job.  They talked about racism often.  We had diverse friends and family and lived in diverse neighborhoods.  My parents were “progressive.”  They celebrated multiculturalism and embraced diversity.

But…they were also one of the many white families who thought that erasing racism was done through colorblindness.

i.e. “I treat everyone the same because I don’t see color.”  OK.

The statement that we “don’t see color” just isn’t true…or realistic.

And this assumption does nothing to solve racism.  In fact, it actually furthers racism.  Color blindness grants white people the privilege of sidestepping the difficult conversations and REAL work, that people of color cannot choose to avoid.  To many who embrace this statement, race has become “invisible.”  Except that it isn’t.

Read: Raising Color Blind Kids And Why I Wouldn’t Dare

As a child, I knew something about racism, but not enough.  What I did know, is that whenever race was mentioned, people reacted with hostility or disappointment.

I watched when grown adults saw a Black man and instantly reacted by locking their doors or by accusing him of criminal acts, like selling drugs or driving a stolen car.  This is not uncommon in white families and, as I soon found out, it’s not uncommon among Latino families either.

The world has a twisted perception of dark skin.  And that knee-jerk reaction isn’t accidental…it’s by design.

Read: Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Horror Realized in Katrina

When New Orleans was under fire by the media, with preachers claiming that “God punishes the wicked,” I was enraged.

Even though I didn’t live in south Louisiana long, I was born there and always felt a connection to the region.  My emotion was amplified further because a year before the Katrina disaster, I had taken Black History course in college and participated in many local events with Black community leaders.

I learned so much and met inspiring people that I (woefully oblivious) didn’t know were out there.

I felt deep, deep sadness for the victims of Katrina that were, I felt, left on their own when Katrina broke down.  We didn’t do enough, we didn’t react quickly enough, this country didn’t give a damn.  That’s the honest truth.  I was angry.

If seeing images of the families of Katrina isn’t enough to wake up America to the problems of racism, I’m sorry, but how far gone are we?

And yet, the madness continues.

Why Black Dolls Matter

So, what does this have to do with Black dolls?

Two years ago, Disney came out with their very first black princess.  She was a New Orleans native, a strong black woman, altruistic, dedicated to making a difference and dead set on reaching her dreams.

While this film may not have been ideal, it was an important moment for many young girls across the country.  And yet, there was a lot missing for many.

Read: Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”: Is Green Face the New Black Face?

For those who’ve read this far and are still questioning…yes, I am aware my daughter is Latina.  Yes, I know “she’s not Black,” but I don’t want her to grow up like I did.  Not seeing positive images of people of color, including (but not limited to) people who look like her.

I buy black dolls for my daughter because I want her to understand the value of everyone, regardless of color.

I buy black dolls because I know that the media is filled with negative images and it presents a challenge for our kids to grow up feeling good about dark skin.

I buy black dolls because I want to create change and this is one small thing that I can do RIGHT NOW to make a difference.  To help my child see things from another perspective.

Stop Challenging Blackness

My family and in-laws both challenged me about buying black dolls because “we’re not black,” but that has only driven me to press this issue further.  And to ask my family and friends to buy Black dolls.

These scenarios (people questioning why I would buy Black dolls) really make you stop and think, why is everyone so intent on challenging this?

My daughter is Latina, but if I bought her a white doll, nobody would object.  I know this, because we’ve had a few white dolls gifted to us even after requesting otherwise.

There have been many studies that show that Black children also prefer white dolls, and that’s a huge problem.

Watch: Study Shows How Children View Race Bias

We don’t portray Black characters or individuals in a way that would motivate children to identify with them.  They don’t get the same amount of screen time, the same quality of roles or the same elaborate embellishments afforded to white characters…white princesses.

So many have left the Black dolls on the shelves.  Companies display them as token images, an attempt at so-called “diversity.”  But this isn’t enough.  Not even close.

We MUST use positive imagery and experiences to combat all of the negative imagery and stereotypes forced onto our children daily.  Racism is EVERYWHERE.

This is why I buy Black dolls.  And it’s why I DON’T buy white dolls.

Because, while we may not be able to control the Eurocentric views that society will force onto our children, we can control the imagery that enters our own homes.

Actions speak louder than words.

#BuyBlackDolls


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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Char
    May 2, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Awesome article! I completely agree with you and it’s great to see that there is another champion of this cause out there. Your daughter’s doll looks a lot like my two year old’s baby dolly.
    Char
    http://1epicmom.com/
    P.S: Check out this book: Princesses Of The World by Katell Goyer

    • Reply
      biculturalmom
      December 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Thanks so much Char! I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner! I’ll definitely check out that book and thanks for the recommendation. :) It’s definitely an important cause and as parents, I think we should always try to encourage our children to play with a diversity of toys…my baby girl also has a lot of what one might consider “boys’ toys” but I love that she is enjoying things without limits or social barriers. :)

  • Reply
    Bicultural Mom’s Top 10 Highest Ranking Posts of 2011! | Bicultural Mom™
    December 26, 2011 at 9:13 am

    […] I’m White, My Daughter is Latina, and I Buy Black Dolls […]

  • Reply
    KimberlyFayton
    March 30, 2012 at 7:01 am

    I totally agree and commend you for speaking out and filling your daughter's life with positive images of all colors. I have a 4 year-old and an almost 2 year-old son and I have already had to deal with my oldest looking at the images of white people on tv and telling me that he wishes he were "pink" (his word for white people, since they're not truly white, of course). Even though I and my family have always made it a point to praise his beautiful chocolate skin and he sees us, his loving family, in many shades of brown, he still feels the effect of growing up in a society that devalues his skin and features. We have a lot of work to do as a society, so it's nice to read how you're doing your part.

    • Reply
      biculturalmom
      March 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm

       @KimberlyFayton Thanks so much for your comment Kimberly.  It’s so sad to hear about your little ones already being affected by this.  Children are definitely affected by how people of color are represented in the media…and especially how they AREN’T represented.  I’ve already seen this with my daughter and I go out of my way to find dolls, toys and tv characters of color…but there aren’t enough…not nearly enough.  And sadder still, many of the characters of color are sterilized and have no cultural or ethnic connections to their color…essentially white in brown skin, which saddens me.
       
      My husband grew up with much of this color hierarchy embedded in his psyche and I don’t want my daughter to have the same self-doubt and insecurity about who she is.  Just as important, I don’t want her to have the stereotypes about the black community that my husband and I grew up hearing.  Presenting positive images is the only way to counter this and I believe we have to start from day 1.
       
      I guess my wish is that this article would appeal to all parents, especially white parents, and help them to understand how important it is for ALL children to have positive black influences and images in their daily lives.
       
      Thank you again for stopping by and commenting.  I really appreciate hearing your story.  <3

  • Reply
    Tara Kamiya
    April 17, 2013 at 2:18 am

    I wonder if I saw you. Years ago I saw what appeared to be a little white girl with the black American Girl doll Addy. I promise you I stared at her all the way down 5th Avenue. I could not fathom why she had that doll or who spent the money for her to have it. I will never forget that, especially when studies show black children don't even want to play with their own dolls.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      Reply
      Chantilly Patiño
      April 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

      Wow…that is really interesting Tara. I have seen a few white and Latino parents buy black dolls, but it’s still pretty rare. Most people have an aversion to black dolls that is very visible when you bring it up. Whenever someone has a kid with a birthday party and I think they’ll be positive about it, I’ll give a black doll as a gift. I’m careful with that though, because if the parents have a negative reaction, that’s not really going to leave much of a positive lesson for the kids.

      It would be interesting to see a study about who plays with black dolls and what their reasons are for making that purchase. I would love to know how we can get more people to give black dolls to their children. Despite what some may think, it’s really an important issue.

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