The Black/White Doll Test - Have we come that far?

Posted by Leticia, 15 Feb 07

I'm not really sure why this particular email caught my attention, but it did. The title was "A Sobering Video". I opened it, watched the video and cried. Now there have been splice of life pieces that have moved me and photo's that made me go "awww". But nothing that made me forward the email to everyone in my contact list, until this...

Hey, this is Leticia. I got this email last week from a friend that sends me the weirdest, funniest and stupidest emails in the world. Usually, they sit in a folder that I've created for such emails, waiting for me to have a day that I literally have "nothing else to do". Then I'll open them one by one, either shake my head, laugh or just delete the whole folder ‘cause I'm not in the mood!

I'm not really sure why this particular email caught my attention, but it did. The title was "A Sobering Video". I opened it, watched the video and cried. Now there have been splice of life pieces that have moved me and photo's that made me go "awww". But nothing that made me forward the email to everyone in my contact list, until this. You can take a look at the video by clicking below...

Your perfect partner could be online right now...

What are you looking for?

The video is a clip from a documentary entitled, A Girl Like Me, directed by Kira Davis, a 17 year old film student from New York. Kira, inspired by the Doll Test conducted by Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark back in the late 1930's, wanted to show how far we've come. As you may or may not know, the "Doll Test" was used as evidence in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education which led to the desegregation of American public schools.

I could go into detail about the video, but I really want you to watch it for yourself. Now, I don't consider myself "old school". However, I am definitely a child of history. A native of Chicago, I have a great recollection of the Black Panthers, and sayings like, Black Power, Power to the People, Black is Beautiful, Say it loud...I'm black and I'm proud. Perhaps all this came as an answer to the Clark's earlier Doll Test. A way to instill hope and pride in a people that had been oppressed, broken and beaten, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So, explain to me what happen between 1970-today? How did we get from being proud to being punked? Why are our little black children still picking the white doll and thinking that the black doll is bad and dirty? It should be easier in 2007 right? We have more black millionaires, CEO's, educators, Pulitzer Prize winners, Secretaries of State, Academy Award winners, Presidential candidates and the list goes on and on.

We have more opportunity for education and wealth than our grand parents ever dreamed. So, why are we still picking the white doll? Oprah and Condoleezza don't look like the white doll! Neither did Martin, Malcolm or Denzel. We have more people in power positions than ever. On the flip side, we have more damaging images too. And it appears that these are the images that our children are seeing more consistently.

I cried after watching that video because not only did I see a little black girl struggle between saying which doll she thought was bad and having to turn around and pick the same doll that looked like her. I saw a little girl that probable bares witness to those same choices in the real world. She see's that the only black women in the big fancy houses like the Desperate Housewives are the one's that dance around the pool to her favorite song in the music videos.

There are shows like Moesha and Raven, but they both have dads in the picture, so maybe she can't relate on that front. Maybe she does live with both parents and the problem isn't the media at all. It's her dad calling mom a bitch and mom calling dad a black bastard every other day, over and over and over again.

I cried over this video because, even though I was raised in a single parent house by my mother who made sure every day to tell me "she loved me". I have strong memories of the time when my dad was there and he spray-painted all my white dolls...black. It wasn't an act of violence, just a strong dose of reality. Because in his world, he had to deal with enough "white people", he didn't want to have to come into his home and deal with them too.

By seeing both sides, I really got a better opportunity to form my own opinions. There were many lessons that my parents taught me about black pride. Most were by example. They did what they loved. They worked hard and long. They treated people the way they wanted to be treated and they loved themselves and carried themselves as such. They showed me that brilliance and ignorance existed in every man.

What frightens me is that our children, while expecting the "man" to fill their heads with self defeating images and lies about their insignificance in the world; are not noticing the damage that is truly being done by those that look like them. It's not just music and the media folks. There are parents that expect a system (that less than 50 years ago, didn't include them), to teach their children EVERYTHING there is to learn about their past, present and future; teachers that go against their own beliefs to pass illiterate athletes and those that thinks it's more important to make a dollar than to make sense.

So, why are we still picking the white doll? The saying in the community is "each one teach one". It means that we are all responsible as people to reach back and share something that we've learned. It would be great to have someone other than ourselves to blame.

Perhaps the answer isn't in who to blame but in who will take responsibility for their own actions. It is what you say as well as what you do. Parenting our children begins with parenting ourselves. Teach your children about love by loving yourself.

Again, check out the video at {BLOG_SID_X}/black-white-doll-test.htm. I'd love to see your comments. If this is an issue that stirs your passions, please send this link to your contacts and let's talk more about not only the self images of our black children but, all of our children.

I asked my two children the same questions from the doll test. My daughter said she would pick the black doll because "it looked like her". When asked which one was bad, my son said; "you can't tell by what they look like, only by what they do". What's sad is that there are some parents out there that are not aware of either doll test and don't realize that there are choices to be made.

Yep, that makes me cry too!

If you feel the same way then I urge you to add this page to your blog or myspace by copy/pasting the link below. And don't stop there, send this URL to all your friends - ESPECIALLY the ones with children - ask them to try it. Remember, if you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you've always had. It's time for change. This is Leticia saying "We are all one race..the human race". If you teach your child nothing else please teach them this!

Responses to "The Black/White Doll Test - Have we come that far?"

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  1.   SoulKitten says:
    Posted: 05 Sep 08

    My son, white, picked the black doll to take home with him because I have told him over and over that other races are good just like white skinned people, despite his fathers(my exs) racism, that lesson won out and Im glad!

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  2. Posted: 11 May 08

    I know this was posted in '07, but the issue is still so relevant. This test was done many times, with this most recent test done by the 17 y.o filmaker(brava to her, and I hope she continues in her craft). When I was a child, I was bought both white and black dolls, the white dolls were usually bought by a great aunt of mine who thought I was always 9, but R.I.P. Aunt Anna, Love ya! she meant well). My mother would buy black dolls, and when I did get my white Barbies, I destoyed them!(I was a tomboy, I wanted trucks), Finally, because a friend of mine had one, I wanted a Superstar Christie(she was Barbie's token friend who kinda had a Diana Ross thing going). She finally found one, but it took awhile because it wasn't as available as a Barbie doll(when the Christies sold out, they took longer to get back in stock). By the time I grew out of dolls, lots of toymakers started to make both the African-American and Caucasian versions of popular dolls. My Latina friends were equally hard up, because it was either blonde hair and blue eyes or brown skin, dark eyes and hair. No tan dolls! Talking to my Asian friends as adults, there were NO dolls in the mainstream, they played with white dolls. And Native Americans were really messed up because their dolls were stereotypically one kind of Native, and as we know, there are many, many tribes. It saddened me that the same results still happen decades after the last test. She hesitated because while the brown doll looked like her, the white one was still "prettier". It's only gonna stop when parents(and grandparents and great-grandparents), stop it with the "ooh, she has the good hair, so long and pretty!" Or the "I hope she doesn't get too dark now!", when the newborns come home from the hospital. My own late grandmother(I loved her, yes) was of the age of women who loved the sons, raised the daughters, and didn't love some of us enough because we were darker(or not a boy)than we "should've been"(to be fair, she disliked my mom because to her she was not middle classed enough, but that's another story). We have to teach our browns and tans to love themselves, and we need to teach the non browns and tans that Black dolls are beautiful, should be played with, and are as valuable as the blond, eyed white dolls. Dolls of color aren't just for people of color!!

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  3.   Dark1ande says:
    Posted: 28 Oct 07

    If the first question had been pick the doll that looks most like you would the outcome have been different?

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  4.   Jade74 says:
    Posted: 29 Mar 07

    I am reading The Color Complex-The Politics of Skin Color Among African Armericans by Kathy Russell.Good reading to understand about the dolls and all things reguarding skin colors.

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  5.   lyn7 says:
    Posted: 20 Mar 07

    I'm sorry I disagree that children of different races would all think of a doll that looks like them as bad. Especially since in other countries ethnic groups are very proud of their culture. Blacks in America hate themselves because white/black Americans don't have a real culture and so we've made up one. One that suggests black is bad by nature and white is good. I'm sure though that kids of other races might consider the white doll as "good" and not threatening just like the black children but there wouldn't be the self hatred. Actually I think a similar test was done with pictures of different races.

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  6.   RG says:
    Posted: 18 Mar 07

    I have been taught to embarace beauty in every form. It is good to know that now, Christie Brinkley is not the only standard of beauty!

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  7.   kryss says:
    Posted: 11 Mar 07

    yeah, i agree with jztbeliv. parents has the great role to mold their children with so much self worth as a person.if they achieved it then there will be no more issue.

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  8.   Coco says:
    Posted: 11 Mar 07

    I 100% agree Justbelieve! If we aren't teaching our kids that "Black is Beautiful", who will? It is our responsibility to give our children the positive reinforcement so this test can become obsolete, and stop making our kids ashamed of who they are.

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  9.   JustBelieve says:
    Posted: 09 Mar 07

    I am not surprised. Many children still spend hours in front of the television, with no parental supervision. I bet many watch those awful videos that depict Black women as not human. Of course those local news programs, always have the worst police mugs of "black crimminals". The final responsibility is with parents instilling positive images of themselves and the World.

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  10.   Urmydestiny says:
    Posted: 08 Mar 07

    The outcome of this test is not surprising at all. TV hasn't changed its still not always easy to see a black face. The other day I went looking for a black doll for my niece who has many white dolls, I couldn't find one on the shelf in the shops and I didn't want to buy a black Barbie doll. Might have to spray paint too, lol. My daughter would have answered the same way as your son, Leticia, by saying you cant tell if the doll is bad by simply looking at its colour. You have obviously brought your children up well. Well I think I just might start making my own dolls and name my company 'Good Dolls R Us' and incorporate dolls of all nationalities

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  11.   lizzy2005 says:
    Posted: 04 Mar 07

    My two children are bi racial. I am white and their father is black. Does the doll test apply to them? They are part of a multi cultural family where no race is better than any other. Just a point to consider folks.

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  12.   Easha says:
    Posted: 03 Mar 07

    It's really interesting to read the comments of people who I know are black...and from people who I am pretty sure are white. The parents should teach their children to be proud of who they are, yes....but who is to say that they aren't....who is to say that the child has low self-esteem? I dont't think that's the case at all...I am proud of who I am...and I'm a beautiful black women, but now, even as a women...I would have choosen the white doll. I can't give a stern reason for this...but we tend to lean towards things we deem as pretty...society dictates the more fair the skin, the prettier you are....even in the black community.....it's what we are more accustomed to, what we are familar with....and white is more glorified in society then white....BUT...say we had and athletic doll...basketball player.....say a Michael Jordan doll and a Larry Byrd doll....Who do you think the kids would pick? Honestly, I think the Michael Jordan or any other black athlete doll compared to a white one...b/c blacks are made to be better players than whites....it's what we are familar with....is it wrong...yes, I think it is.....but eventhough our society in some ways is free....the media still has power to dictate our beliefs.

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  13.   Fala says:
    Posted: 03 Mar 07

    That s true Paul. Racism and bigotry are learned. They don t occur naturally.

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  14.   Cocokisses says:
    Posted: 01 Mar 07

    WELL STATED PLEASJURE! I had to be carted out of a store in Rhode Island because I was so offended of the "Jigaboo" dolls, and the jet black dolls eating watermellons. To this day, I cringe whenever I hear about that state in the news. By the way, I am not crazy about the "mammy" dolls either!

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  15.   lizzy2005 says:
    Posted: 27 Feb 07

    I agree with Paul

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  16.   pleasjure13 says:
    Posted: 27 Feb 07

    Not so simple msjanine...have you ever looked at some of the stereotypical antique black porcelain what nots or the statutes that are erected in the yards of some whites? Black dolls were not plentiful at retail stores in the past because black americans were not acknowledged as being worthy. Our should I say that blacks were not beautiful in whites eyes as well as many of their own.I do not blame the majority of those unfortunate blacks who were somewhat ashamed of themselves...after all a lynch mob was just around the bend. In fact whites did not want there children playing with the real thing yet along with replicas of them. While it is a good thing that you are not teaching your children to be prejudice hopefully you are not pink clouding the issue...just as you stated " I let my children make the decision on what doll they will play with". Not suggesting how you should raise them...hopefully you will educate them on the realities of history.Most of my entire life has been spent working in the direction of equality for all... what I have found is that it will never be on this earth.As long as I see a Confederate flag swaying in the wind or a Swastica symbol or even a black person who plays the role of the minstreal statute in the yard honestly I get pissed off and no web site can cure this...lol

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  17.   msjanine says:
    Posted: 26 Feb 07

    When dolls were made the dolls where white dolls. the black children didnt have anyother choice but to play with white dolls. Throughout generations and they began to make black dolls so parent will have a choice because of the different races. Those children preferred the white doll over the black doll. I really dont think that its a soley a race issue. but it's just the preference of the person. Me being a black woman I played with both black and white dolls because I was not raised to be prejudice and I raise my children the same way. I preferred to buy black dolls for my kids but I let my children make the decision on what doll they want.

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  18.   Paul says:
    Posted: 26 Feb 07

    For those who believe that people should be viewed without color truly need to see this video and realize how much further is to go. This is the preceptions of child...something it was taught in some capcity either through TV, the internet, etc.

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  19.   Jabali says:
    Posted: 24 Feb 07

    The doll test shows a fact that most black people are unwilling to deal with. What is the fact? That MOST black people hate themselves. Am I being too radical? Maybe. But I just think that there are comments that black people all over the world make about themselves, which, unfortunately the kids pick up on and yes, act on in their lives. HHistory has been very sad in that there are people who made a very conscious effort to make black peole hate themselves. What black people MUST do is make a very conscious effort to undo this negative. In the long run we are ALL human and there are good as well as not so good characters in every race. That's just my view!

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  20.   pleasjure13 says:
    Posted: 24 Feb 07

    Yea though I walk through the valley of racism...I will not fear it's evil...I will be mindful for racism masquerades and flourishes in every remote creavice possible.It is never ones friend... at best an evil virus that lies both dormant or proudly overtly flexes itself. Like many progressive and fatal illnesses or diseases racism must be diagnosed and treated in it's earliest stages.A further warning... racism like STDS can be spread.

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  21. Posted: 24 Feb 07

    i don't know, but i always thought black was beautiful, and still do, black was never bad to me, but i also see that all races are beautiful, we're all one, we all just need to learn that GOD loves us all no matter what!!

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  22.   daron says:
    Posted: 24 Feb 07

    Okey!i feel you and women of STARS,has all ways been there,but listen dont let that get you down,U,-we,change things to make life better for all races,theres no clolor in blood u bleed,ITs...all RED,so u push to change things and you always going have thoses who HATE,,so,hola at me I got good stuff give you..$REAL..be strong..from VA BOO,there are-GOOD,and bad in both races..weid them out..threw name of JESUE CHRIST>>>>

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  23.   Fala says:
    Posted: 24 Feb 07

    That s a good point Cocobutter. You probably would see the same results with any non-white child. It s not just a black and white issue.

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  24.   Spicey2 says:
    Posted: 24 Feb 07

    Thank you, Leticia, for providing this alarming footage. It truly brought forth some trying emotions of what to expect and what to work on in terms of my child. I don't tend to allow my child to have that "Barbie Doll" image that the commercials on the television tend to send the mixed signals of. If she is given a gift such as a baby doll, I have noticed she normally doesn't really play with them as much as she would a stuffed animal. As they tend to be of every color, any mammal you can think of, reptiles, etc. They tend to be more versatile and allow my daughter to gain a sense of just "play time." The little one in the footage might have very well have chosen a doll different than she, mainly because as GOT2BEREAL stated, she might have been told she was being "naughty" and saw that the African American dolly was similar to she, so she wanted to go opposite because other surrounding issues that might have swayed her thinking. It's truly what you have stated, "it starts from within the home." I consider myself to be truly blessed not only because of what my ancestors having fought for and what we all continue to fight for in terms of equality, I consider myself blessed because I exist as a human. I have my own individual prejudices, as I am sure all of us do, but I recognize that being on this site appreciating others of various backgrounds, races, religious upbringing, etc., makes me truly the blessed human being that I am. I can only continue to promote an open sense of thinking with my child, and pray that she makes the positive choices in her life to better guide her; but foremost, to never allow her to forget that she is my true African American Princess and that Mommy and Daddy will always be there for her in love, life, and spirit.

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  25.   lizzy2005 says:
    Posted: 23 Feb 07

    When will all this stupidness end? We are all human beings and equal!

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  26.   Cocokisses says:
    Posted: 23 Feb 07

    So true Pleasjure. I remember the Black/White doll test from way back. I also understand the stigma. Even our own peopel still have the House Slave/Field Slave mentality. Those who are light skinned get treated better. Those who are light are automatically beautiful. I do want to say this. I am a dark skinned sister. My daughter is bi-racial so she is very light with long brown hair. I would take her to work and hear how beautiful she is, and people would want to give her things because she is so pretty. I thought about that, and asked my co-workers to stop giving her things because they thought she was pretty. It was sending her the wrong message, and as her Mom, I want her to know that its her brains that people should admire. She is considered Gifted, and takes classes for Gifted Children. She is in 7th grade and reads at college level. I have taught her to be proud of her black and white heritage, but that neither side is better than the other. I see that as a teen she is seeing negative images of my people on tv...she loves watching the news and questions everything. I tell her that both races do bad things...the media just makes us feel like it is always us. I am hoping that some day she will be able to know that she comes from a proud black family, and that she will be able to teach her own children that it truly is not about the color of your skin, but the content of your charachter.

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  27.   SWEETNES20 says:
    Posted: 23 Feb 07

    WHAT WILL THEY THINK OF NEXT?

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  28.   pleasjure13 says:
    Posted: 23 Feb 07

    Unfortunately children are not the only one's picking the white doll and thinking that the black one is ugly.

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  29.   Dora says:
    Posted: 23 Feb 07

    This is something that I have felt very strongly about for such a long time. I refused to buy white dolls for my daughter and I love to collect black dolls for myself.

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  30. Posted: 22 Feb 07

    what will they think of next.....my goodness

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  31.   Penny says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    Yes this is very sad because black so beautiful. When growing up I was taught that black is bad. NO matter the color of the skin there is bad in all people. What can you do when one parent teaches them that all color beautiful and another teaches black is bad. You pray that when they get older they will see the truth and that god made all.

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  32.   texasbest says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    I think that movie was sad but there is always hope.

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  33.   Cocobuttr says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    Not really surprised. I'm pretty sure the same results would have been pretty consistent with any children of color not just Black children

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  34.   romeoluvs says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    Racial stuff is here to say.

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  35.   Tarah says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    I'm curious as to the results if this test were given to children of different races, comparing them to other races? Of even something with slight physical differences ie a whiter skin Chineese with brown eyes at an angle vs a white blue eyes. From traveling to numerous countries and learning from other cultures I really do not believe that this is just a Black American issue.

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  36.   Fala says:
    Posted: 22 Feb 07

    This was a really hard movie to watch. It s a shame to see how little progress we ve made.

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  37.   Got2b4Real says:
    Posted: 21 Feb 07

    I admit that when the one little girl they showed was asked to pick the doll that is 'bad' and she picked the black doll, I thought 'Well, that's easy to explain because she has probably been told at least once that she is 'being bad' and so can identify with a doll that looks like her to be 'bad', BUT when she was hesitant about picking the doll that looked like her and the concept dawned on her that she was most like the 'bad' doll, I just wanted to hug her. Maybe I read too much into things, but the fact that she didn't pick the doll up but slid it across to show she picked that one...was a statement in and of itself about devaluation and how we don't want to 'pick up' that which is bad. We 'slide' on the real issues! I am curious about the same questions being asked of white children since this was a black and white doll test. I would be just as curious to see the questions asked in a different order...like asking which one looks most like them and then which one is nice and which one is bad...but then, to a child nice and bad are different sides of a coin and perhaps they had to pick one or the other for their answer. A child does not fully realize that we are all capable of being nice and bad at times. Teaching our children to value themselves and others is important. Teaching them about their heritage, culture and significance as a person begins within the family unit. Children who see their family take pride in themselves and value themselves are more likely to internalize this. Schools and other social institutions are not designed to teach us how to love ourselves and each other. We learn that from the ones we love the most, whether they are aware of it or not. There are consequences to letting our children learn about love, value, respect and self-worth through venues such as tv and music videos...

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