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Hot Topic: Should Black Girls be gifted with White Dolls?

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  1. "Is it just as likely for a black doll to be given to a white child?" (can't remember exactly how you phrased the question)

    No, it's not likely, it doesn't happen OFTEN, though it can/does happen ocassionally...(when I was a little girl I received a black cabbage patch premie doll, who I cherished). but you're right, the "white" seems to be preferred, the white doll usually sells out quicker (and if I'm being honest about the black cabbage patch doll, that's what happened that Christmas, my mom orderd three dolls for my sisters and I and one showed up black because they sold out of the white; my mom gave the doll to me because she knew I was the least likely to mind the difference in color), etc.

    For my daughter B, I wanted her to have dolls of a few different races/ethnicities; our family is multi-racial and I certainly didn't want her thinking she could only have black dolls because she is black.. but I have noticed and I am pleased that she prefers the dolls with skin the same color as her. We are working a lot on affirmation and feeling blessed for the skin and hair God gave us :)
    She LOVES dolls, and for her birthday last year my mother in law wanted to get her this baby doll that could cry and talk and drink a bottle, etc. She could only find it in the white variety and aksed me what she should do; I told her "don't worry aobut it, B doesn't need to have dolls that are only black." Well come bday time, she certainly loved the doll, but whispered to me later, "but why doesn't she have brown skin like mine?" It was expressed as a disappointment, a minor one, but still as disappointment. Her dolls are about half black and half other races, including caucasian.

    I think your feeling about the party gift (and exactly how I would have felt if my daughter was the recipient), is not so much that your daughter got a white doll, but that there were no black dolls given out at the party. The message (though most likely unintentional by the party host) is that a white doll is the preferred/better/more acceptable doll. :(

  2. Hi Natacha,

    Thanks for the video. I live on an island where approx. 90% of the population is black or mixed (black/white, black/Indian, black/Asian). The remaining 10% are made up of white and East Indian races. Our Prime Minister, cabinet and parliament, news anchors, attorneys, doctors etc. are black or mixed. Yet, in the stores, white dolls are the majority. And when there ARE black or ethnic dolls in the stores, they 9 times out of 10 have straight, silky, "Barbie" hair only.

    I have chosen not to buy Barbie brand dolls as yet. Yes, there are "black" Barbies, but to me, the black Barbies tend to be one dimensional in their features. The black race is too beautifully multifaceted for me to stick with Barbie. I've chosen brands that are more culturally and ethnically diverse. And a little less provocative/sexy, but that's a different topic. :-)

    As for being gifted a white Barbie. I wouldn't hold it against the person or even expect them to have the sensitivities I may have to the color of a dolls skin. If I were a white mom I might be giving away white dolls without a second thought. However, funny enough, as a black mom I would feel very awkward giving a white girl a black doll. What's that about!

    Great topic. Thanks.

  3. Good topic. I'm a white mother to a black daughter and a white daughter. We have a mix of dolls of many different races--some black, some white, some asian, and some ubiquitous. Last time my black daughter took her allowance to the toy store, she picked out a blond-haired, blue-eyed doll. I struggled with whether I should try to steer her towards a non-white doll. I let her get the white doll b/c I wanted to make sure she new your "baby" doesn't have to look like you, but it does make me think b/c I don't want her to only pick white dolls. I think it's something we will have to continuously look for balance in and use as teaching moments.

  4. Oh and wanted to add on a somewhat related topic--I also think it's important that boys be allowed to play with dolls. I hate that so often social stereotypes say it's wrong for boys to play with dolls--as if learning to nurture is a bad skill.

  5. What a great topic. As a white mom of a black princess I have always made sure that her dolls are black. I spent probably a month on line last year till I found a "dressy bessy" type doll that taught dressing skills and was not white. She does also have a few white dolls that like you were gifts from others (not usually family, they are very supportive of my intent to have my children proud of who they are but friends have done this. I have noticed though that if she likes any of the white dolls they are usually the ones with really curly hair, so I at least feel like it affirms that she loves her curly locks!

  6. Oh, thanks for this post! As the white mom to a black daughter I am always wondering just what is appropriate in this case. Jeane has about 6 dollies....4 black, 2 white. I am glad that she likes her little black dolly best (she named her Dorcy, don't have a clue why....) but I know that she loves dolls that have long, flowing hair because she likes to "do hair". She will sit for an hour putting barrettes and pony tails in her sister's hair. I am always careful to exclaim over how beautiful her hair is, but I can't help but wonder if she will grow up wishing she could have her sister's flowing locks. It makes me sad because I LOVE her hair and think it is amazing. Perhaps you could address some ways that we can encourage our daughters to love the beautiful hair God gave them.

    You know, when you mentioned the white doll gift, and wondered how people would feel if their child was gifted with a black doll, my first thought is, "Of course, they would be fine with it!" But you know what? The more that I think about it, the more I am not sure of that. I don't think some of my relatives would appreciate it. Which makes me so sad. You have made a really good point. I am going to try and give out more culturally diverse toys in the future. We have plenty at our home, but giving them out as gifts is a good idea.

  7. What a great post! We're dealing with this issue this Christmas too.

    I made a big deal about T's first doll this year because I knew someone in the family would buy her one for her first birthday or Christmas. I picked a cute black doll that was safe (cloth) for babies and made a big deal of how much I LOVED IT. Mostly, I was just trying to make sure no one bought her a white baby. So far, T just likes to steal her baby's pacifier...not too much nurturing yet! LOL.

    Here's my question for you and your readers: do you know of good doll lines that have natural hair that little girls can play with? Many of the black dolls I see have straight hair or painted on hair. I'd like to have as broad a selection of dolls as possible to choose from for my nieces and for T (if she ever stops abusing the one she already has).

  8. @Terri--I hope people chime in for the doll recommendations because black dolls seemed a little scarce to me where I live this Christmas. Maybe I was just shopping too late. Anyway, I almost never see dolls with tightly curled hair and never nappy hair. The closest I've seen were tiny braids. I have seen some online but expensive. We have a "textured" American Girl Just like Me doll and a miniature Addy. Their hair shrinks right up and acts a lot like nappy hair. We didn't think our oldest was ready for one until she was around 8 though. They are expensive. We have a ways to go with the dolls but thank God it's not like it was in the past.

  9. Also, I notice that when a Barbie type doll is introduced with somewhat curly hair or hair to mimic chemically relaxed hair the doll's hair is really short. My girls always complain that on a doll that small they can't do any styles. It's difficult because the shorter cut hair styles do reflect black women more accurately---but it's not enough hair to really indulge in. Another message of reality that can be bitter to a little girl. Teaching our girls to enjoy big fluffy hair in play--another issue. Someone on a hair board I frequent posted a picture of a doll with gorgeous long dreadlocks....I've never seen anything like this in real life. I'll buy it if I ever do.

  10. My daughter received her load of white barbies this christmas but what saddens me the most is when people are surprise when she has her 'blacker' in hand. As if it is strange to have that shade in barbies. And its hard to find in stores too up here in Canada! They mostly have less in stock so they are always sold out or on sale then sold out!

    I want my daughter to have all sorts of coloured dolls but also want her to relate to them somehow

  11. I wouldd like to know more about the textured hair dolls you are talking about above....

  12. The doll I have is an American Girl doll. The idea of the one I bought was to create a doll that looks like your daughter, but our options were so limited I couldn't find a match for mine. My daughter's skin matched the Mexican doll they had but her hair was silky straight. We went with the black doll because of the textured hair--which still looks fairly straight. Even styled the same and wearing matching outfits my daughter looks nothing like the doll. American Girl now has a create a doll option. I didn't spend a lot of time on the site, but I don't see a skin tone option for the black dolls. I like the idea but they need more options for everyone. Here's the link if you want to check it out:

  13. When I first watched this video I thought, "We have a variety of dolls - black, white, Asian - in our home and I like it that way as its similar to our family." However, yesterday a family member gave our youngest daughter a white doll for her birthday. I was surprised at how much it bothered me. When I was at Target last week I saw this doll and saw that (at least at the Target near our home) it was available in both black and white. Maybe I should give this family member the benefit of the doubt and say that their Target didn't have any black ones. But....I'm still not sure I'm okay with it. We plan to return the doll, but I'm left wondering if I should say anything to the person who gave it to her or not????

  14. @Char I never said anything to my friend about her gift. If she was a close friend who would be giving my daughter gifts all of the time, I'd probably start a conversation. I'd be conscious of the fact that my friend wasn't trying to offend me and show gratitude for her thoughtfulness but share my concerns. I'd be prepared for some conflict though, because my friend may be defensive and possibly even accuse me of prejudice for make an issue. Hopefully not. If all you anticipate is conflict and no growth from the experience, it may not be worth it. Just my 2 cents.

  15. wow! this is a really good question. I am half Indian and half white. As a child i didn't play with dolls much, but my favorite barbie was always the one with dark features and tan skin like me. I think it's natural for girls to want to play with dolls that look like them. However, black barbies don't have black features They are just barbies with dark skin. I prefer Groovy Girl dolls. They are not provocative at all, are soft and cuddly, and come in many different races. You can buy them adorable outfits and accessories, and you can choose a doll with virtually any hair and skin combo.

  16. Thanks for reminding me of Groovy Dolls--we have lots of groovy dolls! I think they are good quality dolls with a more appropriate anatomy for our girls too. I also like the cottony hair--which feels more like nappy hair. The biggest complaint I've gotten from my girls is that they can't run a brush or comb through their hair but I use those moments to push finger combing. I think girls who have a good self image are drawn to dolls that look like them. Ambivalent girls consistently don't. Girls who still consider society's image of beauty to be better struggle. If our girls are still making their choice and still learning--I want to give them a nudge at appreciating what they see in the mirror.

  17. I would wait and see if she wants one. If she does like them, then please let her have one. I saw a black baby doll in a store when I was four and wanted it so bad. I just thought it was beautiful. Well, i didn't get it, and that was in 1966 and I have never forgotten about it. :)


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