Knowing the pain little Black girls feel when they’re unable to find dolls that look like them, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student group is collecting Black dolls for local youths in an effort to boost their self confidence.
“I didn’t see people who looked like me that I thought were pretty, so in turn I didn’t think I was beautiful,” Jasmine Kiah, organizer of the Black Barbie Drive told local station WISC-TV. “I always thought the white dolls were more beautiful – and I’d always pick them when my mom tried to give me a doll that looked like me.”
Growing up, Kiah said she never saw positive images of Black women in the media and that the representations on television were often of white women who, were portrayed as smart and more beautiful.
A study conducted by sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1940 explored this phenomenon, revealing that over 60 percent of African-American girls would rather play with white dolls because they appeared nicer. Meanwhile, negative connotations were assigned to the darker-skinned baby dolls.
An updated version of the study, headed by child psychologist and college professor Margaret Beale Spencer, showed that Black children had “white bias” toward the white dolls, according to the news station. Still, white children exhibited more bias.
While toy companies like Barbie and American Girl have begun featuring dolls of various races and even some with disabilities, Kiah said there’s still more work to be done.
“Because Madison is a majority white community, I don’t think they understand how hard it is to go out and find a black doll or a black action figure,” she explained.
The collected dolls will be donated to Freedom Inc. and given as Christmas presents to children in low-income families in Dane County.
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