It’s a message that can’t come early enough. Kids as young as 3 notice race, and they quickly become aware that race or colour is given meaning in our world. Princesses, featured in books and movies, our kids’ teachers, role models, ballerinas and royalty. All white and straight haired.
In a 1940s experiment, African-American children given the choice between white and black dolls overwhelmingly chose the white doll and assigned it the more positive character traits. The study has been replicated over the decades with other minority kids and similar results.
Two weeks ago one of my children received a doll. With black skin. A beautiful ballet dancer complete with a tutu and pointed toes. My other daughter looked at it and turned her face saying, “I don’t like it”.
I knew why.
We concentrated a lot on my oldest to make sure she grew up with a healthy sense of who she is/ was, where she came from so that she is proud of both the skin colours that make up her being.
We neglected our middle daughter, perhaps thinking it would sink in by osmosis. But, we were wrong. It doesn’t. We’re up against it.
ALL of her teachers are white. Her friends all seem to be white (not that there isn’t a healthy mix of diversity in her classroom but she’s purposely… or not- it’s too early to tell- chosen out her few friends from amongst the bluest eyes and blondest hair).
Despite being surrounded by cousins and grandparents, Aunties and Uncles who are all a dark chocolate complexion. Not to mention her most influential male, her most devoted dad who she is so close to, is brown skinned.
And yet, there it was. Is it a phase that children go through, I wonder? Because she certainly has a healthy circle of diversity surrounding her. Was it to shock us?
Of course I went into a whole tirade of reasons why what she said was unreasonable and unfair and ‘what if someone doesn’t like you because of your skin colour?’ etc etc. My husband told me to relax.
I spoke to her about it later reminding her about all of the people around her who have dark skin. And one by one, she made exceptions. Realising afterwards that she didn’t actually dislike everyone with dark skin.
The fact that she wanted to. That she’s been unconsciously cultivating this preference towards lighter skin is alarming but also scary to think how easy racial bias creeps in.
Experts recommend that parents buy ethnic dolls from birth as one way to surround daughters and sons with positive images from the outset. When introducing a doll later on, you don’t need a big speech about the doll’s ethnicity, though. Just let their imagination run wild.
So here you go. It’s all here, your go-to guide to buying the perfect doll for your mixed race kids. From dolls to figurines to real babies, it’s all here. And the best part? You don’t need to order from across the pond! Click on the picture direct to purchase from a UK retailer.
Read more on raising your kids to love the skin they’re in…