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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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