Previous ArticleNext Article

Sound-Off: What's the Harm in Black Girls Playing with White Dolls?

Comments
Girl Playing with Doll
Photo Credit: Getty Images

There’s legal protection called The Good Samaritan Law for everyday citizens who mean well in the urgency of a crisis, but may somehow cause more damage in their efforts to help. It’s an aegis for folks who might let tragedy ensue for fear of being prosecuted—or persecuted—if they muff up a rescue. There’s no such thing as a social safeguard, though. So someone executing what started out as a public service or thoughtful gesture can find themselves inadvertently experiencing the bitter taste of scandal.

Eudoxie Agnan, unassuming do-gooder and celebrity-by-association because of her romantic relationship with Ludacris, discovered that firsthand when she gifted dolls to little girls in her native Gabon in West Africa. Everybody was all “aww, isn’t that sweet”—until she posted pics on Instagram revealing that said dolls were White. Little girl happiness be damned. It stung some of her followers to see beautiful brown children fawning over their new blonde-haired, alabaster-skinned playthings, and the boldest of them told her as much.

She didn’t take too kindly to it and wasted no time posting a rebuttal. “Anyone trying to tell me what color gifts I should be giving, don’t worry I will give you the chance to do the giving,” she barked, adding later in the passage, “…make sure all the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the house you live in are BLACK. If you are black everything you wear, drive, drink should be in the color black.”

I’ll give her a pass that that doesn’t really make any good sense. She was mad and you know how it is when you’re ticked off. Them words just come fumbling on out, nonsensical and crazy-sounding as they wanna be. Still, there’s an ever-so-slight whiff of self-righteousness in her response which, loosely translated, sounds like, “You weren’t doing crap to help the situation, so sit your poor, insignificant self down and wait for your number to be called which, quite obviously, will be never.” The nerve of y’all to raise any kind of opposition.

I like Eudoxie, the public-but-non-headline making version of her, anyway. She seems pleasant and she carries herself with a level of dignity that’s frighteningly absent in the rapper girlfriend subset, largely because ‘hood is good and everybody is always vying for a spot on America’s Next Ratchet Reality Show. Plus, a woman who selflessly pools her resources to make someone else’s life better, especially babies, is alright in my book.

But—if I may ever-so-meekly raise my finger and tip into the argument—there is something to be said about the subliminal influence dolls have on the self-esteem and self-perceptions of little Black girls, especially ones who don’t have access to these kinds of toys, which they will undoubtedly cherish. Race does matter, and proof was documented in groundbreaking tests conducted by psychology husband-and-wife-team Kenneth and Mamie Clark back in 1940. They asked Black children to choose between two dolls—a White one and a Black one—and show them which one was the pretty doll. The nice one. The smart one. Time and time again, the kids pointed to the White doll as the answer. That study was recreated in 2005 by filmmaker Kiri Davis in her documentary, A Girl Like Me, to very similar, very disheartening results. And that was just a few years ago.

There’s so much working to chokehold the self-esteem of our girls (and pervert what’s beautiful and desirable to our boys, as demonstrated by the standard-image look of Eudoxie herself) that we’re obligated to make conscious choices in what we buy for them, what we allow them to watch on TV and what we ultimately let them internalize.

Young women are still growing up conflicted about what they see in the mirror because they’ve got the pressures of both traditional White and contemporary Black standards all up in their faces. They’ll wear natural hair but want it to curl up like Tracee Ellis Ross’ because they want to be exotic. They’ll stay out of the sun because they don’t want to get too dark, and they’ll criticize their bodies for being too curvy for Abercrombie & Fitch or not curvy enough to fit the video vixen prototype. They’re taking hits from every direction. So it’s critical to catch them early and ingrain their worth in every way possible.

Once upon a time, there weren’t many options for little girls of any non-White complexion. Now there are, thanks to the push for diversity and lots of back-and-forth between consumers and toy manufacturers. So there’s no reason a little Black girl can’t celebrate herself in doll-form. Shout out to Eudoxie for her generosity and big-heartedness. To her, the color of a doll’s faux skin might not seem like a big deal. But those are the things that usually are.

Filed Under: Sound-Off
« Previous Entry
Sound-Off: Supreme Court Weakens Voting Rights Act
Next Entry »
Introducing @ESSENCE_Debates