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

I’m White, My Daughter is Latina, and I Buy Black Dolls parenting in color  Mi vida black dolls biracial

Image credit: Flickr / teadrinker

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

I have to admit, when I was a kid I probably never 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. Some may be wondering, “Why are you buying Black dolls for your daughter? She’s not even Black!”

Well, it’s kind of a long story, or a short one depending on your experience. Some are shaking their heads right now like, “Yeah, that’s right! White people could benefit from a little exposure to color!” For real! I’m with you and here’s why…

I grew up in a fairly “modern” time, 1980-90′s…and yet, race was a big issue for me.  I didn’t know what it was all about as a child, but I knew that people reacted with hostility and disappointment whenever it was mentioned.  I watched when people saw a black man and they would lock their doors or accuse him of being a criminal and stealing the car he was driving.  This is common in White families…and it was common “knowledge” when I joined my hubby’s Latino family too (hubby not included!).  Now, that’s not to say that all people are racist, or even that those with prejudice are filled with hate…but there are definitely some very real problems with the way that many of us view the black community.

When New Orleans was under fire by the media, with preachers claiming that “God punishes the wicked“, I could have hit them all in the face (sorry Lord!).  Even though I didn’t live in south Louisiana long, I was born there and always felt a connection to the people of that region.  My emotion was amplified because the year before the Katrina disaster I had taken Black History courses in college and participated in many local events with black community leaders.

I learned so much and met inspiring people that I, as an uniformed white, didn’t know were out there.  I felt for the struggles of black folks in the south who were victims of Katrina and were, I felt, left on their own when Katrina broke down.  We didn’t do enough, we didn’t react quickly enough, we didn’t care enough.  If seeing images of the families of Katrina isn’t enough to wake up America to the problems of racism, I don’t know what is.

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! Maybe it’s not a big deal to some, but for a woman who’s raising a daughter of color, it’s important to me!

I’m aware my daughter is Latina, yeah, 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.  If I look back to my childhood, the only positive image I can recall is the Cosby show…and that’s a shame.  I still love that show, but even today…programing like that is hard to come by.

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 change the norm.

My family and in-laws both challenged me about buying black dolls because “we’re not black“, but that drives me on even harder.  It really makes you stop and think, why is this even being challenged at all? My daughter’s Latina, but if I bought her a white doll, nobody would object…nobody has objected!

From experience, I can tell you that I’ve seen black girls pick white dolls.  But who wouldn’t pick a “princess” over any other doll?  What girl wouldn’t pick the “special” one?  My daughter prefers princesses too…and when you don’t have dolls of color with the same status as Disney princess characters, they tend to get pushed to the side.

The problem is that we don’t often portray African Americans in a way that would motivate children to identify with them. Americans have left the black dolls on the shelves and displayed them as token images…an attempt at so-called “diversity”.  But, I’m beyond proud that we now have a black princess and hopefully many more positive images that can help defeat the negative stereotypes about African Americans and their supposed lack of “desirable” qualities.  Our daughters need them, not just black daughters…but white, Latina and any other.

P.S.  Waiting on a Latina princess!  *hint!*  ;)  Disney?

*This post was originally published on New Latina.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    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

    • says

      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. :)

  2. KimberlyFayton says

    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.

    • says

       @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

  3. says

    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.

    • says

      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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