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Do Kids See Black, White, Brown, Etc.?

A mom and her daughter were obviously shopping for the little girl friends. They came across the Bratz Dolls. The only ones left were the Black or maybe it was the brown one. The little girl told the mom that she didn't want to buy that one because it was the black/brown one. The mother agreed and they left Target and decided to continue their search.

That was the start of a forum posting recently on indymoms.com and what ensued was a thoughtful conversation about raising kids in a world of acceptance.

Once upon a time, finding black dolls and other role model toys for kids was no easy task. Friend Lisa, who has three kids and a house full of black Little People, black rescue hero figures, black American Girl dolls, black art and books by and about positive black role models, tells me it's been much easier to find such role model items for her kids than it was for her mom in the '70s.

Finding such role model toys is important for black children, especially since some tests show that children as young as preschool age start to think white is better than black. Lisa's approach to raising her children is to beat the negative influences that exist in our culture and build strong self-esteem in her children before her children are exposed to many stereotypes.

So, I asked Lisa if she thinks she should have white dolls in her house along with black ones. "While I don't have them now, I'm sure I will. And Asian dolls," she said. And what about buying black dolls for white children? Lisa has noticed a couple of households with dolls of varying races. In fact, she reminded me that my eldest son chose a black baby doll at the store when I was pregnant and took him shopping for his own baby.

Do you have multiple races of toys represented at your house? Would you buy a black or brown or Asian doll for a white child or vice versa?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 12, 2007; 8:30 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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Comments


If we were at a store for the purpose of buying a doll for my child and said child requested a black/brown/Asain doll, we would purchase said doll. If said child were undecided, we would recommend a white doll.

Posted by: Anon for this | September 12, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

When my daughter was about 4, she insisted that she have a black doll because her best friend at the time was black and she wanted her doll to be her best friend too. It was no big deal and I really liked her logic.

Posted by: MDMom | September 12, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. I have a friend (white) who had girl twins with a man (he's African American) whom she's not married to and never sees). The twins are mixed, but certainly look more African American then Caucasian. She buys them white dolls. Her sister married an African American and they too have a daughter, however in this case, the MIL buys the child brown/black dolls against the DIL wishes...

Growing up, my neighbor wanted a "chocolate" (her exact word, she was probably all of 5 or 6) Cabbage Patch Doll and her parents got her one.

Posted by: WDC | September 12, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Kids are selfish narcissists. Of course they want a doll that looks like them! This is not a problem. And sometimes they want a doll that doesn't look like them. Also not a problem. If they're brought up in a multi-cultural environment, where different colors are the norm, you probably won't bring up a little racist. Unless you're a racist. Though, we do hang around people of the same socio-economic and educational status, so they may spend most of their time with people of a certain color (theirs or another), and you may have to work a little harder at making sure they know people are people. This is one reason why raising a child in the DC area is great: it's colorful!

Posted by: atb | September 12, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. We mostly get stuffed animals and toys rather than dolls for our DD, but next time she wants some sort of Barbie princess thing, I think we'll make sure it is non-white. She, like most of the little ones around here, appears to be entirely unconcious of race.

Posted by: Olney | September 12, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I think we, as parents, worry more about this than they, as children, do. Buy the kid what he/she wants. Not everything in life needs to be a lesson, or send a message.

Posted by: jj | September 12, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I would definitely buy my daughter (or son) a doll of a different race if she requested one. I have made it a point to buy my daughter dolls of multiple races and books that feature characters of different races. I agree with atb that if you are open and accepting, your children likely will be as well. But, I think it helps to have toys/books as role models as well. We also read some older books, the classics, that often feature blacks or women in roles that I would not want my children to model. When we read these passages I typically pause and discuss the issues. I'm curious though how others handle this. I am sometimes torn between wanting my kids to read these classic old stories but cringing at some of the stereotypes and messages they present.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | September 12, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is 3 years old and have white dolls and black dolls. (Though they are mainly black because that's what I prefer to buy her.) It is so easy for black children to get brainwashed thinking that white is somehow "prettier." I want my daughter to accept who she is and by doing that I read who stories with black characters and buy who black dolls.
My daughter doesn't see color though. She doesn't refer to someone as that 'black/white girl/boy."

Posted by: Soguns1 | September 12, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Well, jj, that's precisely the problem. Whether you think "Not everything in life needs to be a lesson, or send a message" is irrelevant, as things like the skin color of dolls DOES send a message and DOES affect a child's perception.

Again, can we please start deleting messages that disagree with reality? It would make for so much more productive discussions.

Posted by: Ryan | September 12, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I volunteer to do art in K for inner city kids. I also do the same for my 1st grade son's class in a more upper-class neighborhood. Last year, I had the kids do pictures of themselves - clothes and everything. I had cut out peach and various shades of brown faces for them to use and let the kids choose their own. In the inner-city school, many of the African-American GIRLS chose the peach faces. None of the boys did. The teacher told me how there had been studies shown how black children will often choose white dolls because they are "prettier."

Interestingly, however, at my son's school, fully 1/3 of the white children chose darker skinned faces. Boys and girls did that, my son included.

Posted by: Andrea | September 12, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

We have all races and even religions of dolls. I think the best lesson is diversity. We are Asian and I do like to make a special point of buying Asian dolls. But I also try hard to include all types of dolls and figurines. My favorite Little people set is the families in our neighborhood. It includes a blonde family, asian family, hispanic and african american. I scanned garages sales till I found a brown haired family and a red haired family. It was very hard to find the red heads!

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I am black and do not have children yet. But, I have a god-daughter who is nearly 2. Her mother has said that she only wants her to have black dolls. If she were my child, I would want her to have dolls of any and all races. We have talked about it and she still prefers to only give her black dolls. I will certainly respect her wishes. But, I think in the multicultural world in which we live it is important for children of all races to continue to be exposed to all races in their homes and toys, regardless of the race of the child.

Posted by: JDN | September 12, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, one of our friends is black and his wife is also black. They gave my daughter a nice christmas book where everyone including santa was black. My daughter asked why santa was black and I said that no one has seen santa so he could be any color. She was satisfied with that but if she pressed me, I am not sure what else I would have said. Quite a conundrum.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for a black Disney princess, with a doll available in Target.

Posted by: Rock Creek | September 12, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

We are Black and have a 2 year old daughter. She has a few white dolls but lots of brown and black dolls. At this age, we prefer to purchase brown/black dolls for the purpose of helping us instill in her a strong sense of self and cultural identity. Because of where we live and our socio-ecomomic status, she (and parents) often is (are) the only or only one of a few blacks in most social and educational settings. In our opinion, there will be plenty of time and opportunity for the larger mainstream society to attempt to destroy her self-image and to convince her that her black identity is of less social value and is less beautiful than others'. We do not forbid white dolls, but prefer not to spend our own money on them.

Posted by: ReaderInNY | September 12, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

My DD is only 2.5 and prefers stuffed animals to dolls, so this isn't really an issue for us yet. I would definitely buy her dolls of all different races, but I do think it's pretty normal for a child to want their one "special" doll to look like them, and I really don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by: reston, va | September 12, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I have kids who are mixed race (I am caucasian and my husband is african american) and I do think it's important to give kids dolls from races other than white. Actually, I would tend to agree with the woman's sister above who only wants her daughter to have black dolls. Unfortunately, there is still a tendency for little girls to see white beauty as superior. My two daughters are young enough that they are just starting to deal with this. However, one of the things that I have been aware of since the birth of my oldest son (he's 12 now) is that I want my kids to be exposed to the idea of non-white beauty. This has been difficult as the area we live in is pretty homogenous, but I have made a point of bringing images of beautiful black women into our home (decorations, our Christmas tree angel, etc) and even commenting about how pretty a beautiful african american woman on TV or something in front of my boys. I don't really care what race they end up dating or marrying, but I would hate to think that they were not able to appreciate the beauty of people who don't look like mom or most of the neighbors. For pretty much this same reason, I would probably give my daughters all non-white dolls if I were forced to choose. The notion of white beauty is easy enough to come by in our culture. I just think it takes a little more effort to cultivate the same sort of appreciation for other sorts of beauty. Hopefully, when our kids grow up they will have the same unconcious ability to appreciate all forms of beauty that we tend to have of white beauty today and this conversation will seem quaint and irrelevant.

Posted by: rebeccat | September 12, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

We are an interracial family. My husband is white and I am black. We have brown dolls and peach dolls. My DD is 28 months old and she's starting to talk about color. I feel that she's too young to notice it because we don't talk about color at home, but so many people approach us to mention her blond hair or fair skin, that it's hard to get away from it.

She said yesterday, "You have black hair, and I have yellow hair, and Liam (baby brother) has black hair, and Daddy has yellow hair." Some days she says that Daddy has green hair and Liam has red hair. I just nod and say, "Yes."

My mom took her shopping and she picked a doll with peach skin and purple hair. She loves purple. So there you go.

I think parents who show their children love and can accept dolls of different colors without being wierd about fabric or paint will go a long way towards teaching the kids to accept people of different colors. I grew up with a Jackie (remember her with the Afro!) and a Barbie. I liked them both. Jackie probably rubbed off on me because I still sport the fro. But I don't think it's a good idea to practice color prejudice against dolls for any family. Children of color can learn white superiority from many other sources, mainly from interactions with adults.

I would buy a doll representing any race/ethnicity because I have friends whom I love of lots of races and ethnicities. I'd give it to any child, boy or girl.

Posted by: mamamo | September 12, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Growing up my grandmother only allowed me to play with African American Dolls. We are from a very racist state... Massachusetts. I believe having dolls of my own race made me more excepting of who I am and PROUD! However, I will buy my daughter dolls of different races but I continue to instill in her that Black is Beautiful and for that reason my daughter will more than likely CHOOSE on her own to have white dolls. No matter what, the world we live in is not much different that yesterday. Yeah interracial couples can walk down the street openly but society, some, make it extremely hard. As a minority, we live in a world that is constantly not accepting of who we are. Our hair is too short, our skin is too dark, or our bodies are too curvaceous but we have to raise our kids to be more accepting and understanding of others differences.

Posted by: Shae | September 12, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

My mother made handmade dolls for a long, long time before her eyesight and arthritis got too bad. She made everything from scratch -- 18" body stuffed with batting, clothes (dress, pantaloons, pinafore), shoes, hair made from yarn and face pasted on. They were really beautiful. She could make a doll to match your kid's hair and eye color, even made 'black' dolls with brown fabric, and Asian dolls with almond eyes. She made dozens to sell at church bazaars and for gifts. She kept of list of where they ended up -- many even went to other countries like Israel, England, and Jamaica.

I once mentioned that I didn't have one of her dolls but would love to get one, so on my 40th birthday she gave me a doll -- it has very blond hair and blue eyes. I am brunette with hazel eyes. My 'child' doesn't look anything like me. 8-) It should be the child's decision for whatever reason -- whether they want a doll like them or a favorite friend. We are taught by the adults around us to see the different colors. My younger brother even asked for a doll when he was little because being the only boy in the neighborhood, everybody had a doll but him. He also got a carpenter set and cowboy hat that same Christmas. He turned out to be a wonderful father to his kids.

Posted by: Another anon. today | September 12, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, there is still a tendency for little girls to see white beauty as superior. "

I would also like to comment that this is a problem for lots of white people as well. I don't look a thing like the "white" standard of beauty- ie, I don't look northern European, and as a little kid I was always acutely aware that I would never live up to the standard of fair skin, small features, staight hair, etc, and I really never felt like I could ever be "pretty" until I got to high school, which was much more diverse. I think there is more of a variety in terms of what is considered "beautiful" than there was 30 years ago, but I do try to make sure that my DD sees a variety of different images of beauty. And I keep the disney princess out of my house- at least for now (though that has as much to do with not wanting her to think women are supposed to be passive).

Posted by: reston, va | September 12, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

This is interesting. We have been very careful to teach our daughter that race is unimportant. Looks are important to kids though and they will be attracted to what they think is pretty. My daughter has fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. What does she think is pretty? People with dark skin and hair and brown eyes. She finds brown skin to be luxuriously beautiful and simply fauns over her African American friends.
As for dolls, we have all colors. We even have a pink Barbie (although why she is pink evades me). My daughter does tend to want to buy brown dolls for her brown friends and peach dolls for her peach friends (white skin is caused by a genetic abnormality of melanin production - albinism, we are teaching our daughter that as a Caucasian her skin color is peach).

Posted by: 21117 | September 12, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Rock Creek, it's in production! Disney is currently working on The Frog Princess, set in New Orleans. They're incorporating traditional New Orleans jazz music, as well. It's being done using traditional animation techniques, as well (think of the classic Disney, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin sort of animation) instead of the CGI animation (like most Pixar films).

As far as dolls go, I've been lucky. Organic Kid (a girl), has stated she thinks Barbie is "silly," Bratz are "fake and bratty," and recently I found a photo of her with a baby doll her grandma got her for her second birthday. Organic Kid has a look on her face like "Okay, what do I do with this thing???" She never played with it, much prefering her many, many plastic animals and dinosaurs.

Posted by: Organic Gal | September 12, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Barbie looks like a hooker or a transvestite.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

No Bratz dolls for my little girl ever!

On topic she has all different kinds of little people and baby dolls. I let her pick them out. Her grandma did buy her three white dolls last Christmas and she likes them okay. However, she likes all the other baby dolls too. She often tells me that the black babies at school are so cute and she loves the little "go babies" she sees on TV.

I sometimes think that if you don't make a big deal out of race your kids won't either. I want her to like all people, so I show her by example.

Posted by: Irish girl | September 12, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

As an anecdote, this reminds me of a story that my grandmother would tell me about her youngest brother. They grew up in Ohio in a white, working class town, and had taken a vacation (I think to New York). Apparently the brother in question saw an African American man walking down the street and became so frightened that he ran and hid in my Grandmother's skirt (she was at least 15 years older than him). This would have been in the 1930s, he was about 2-3 years old.

What I took from the story was not that he was racist, but that he had never seen someone who was not white before. What this illustrates, and there is research to back this up, is that human beings react very strongly to people that are clearly different from them. There are plenty of theories as to why this is, but the why is not so important.

What is unique about children in this instance, is that they have a much easier time than adults revising and changing their thought patterns. So there can be a tangible effect to having dolls (and playmates) of different races.

To try and throw a bit of a guy perspective in here though, I've not noticed a plethora of multi-ethnic action figures (that would be, dolls for boys) on the market. Certainly there are more than there was when I was growing up but hardly any compared to what I've seen when I've looked through dolls for girls.

Posted by: David S | September 12, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I would LOVE the beautiful, healthy, curvy bodies (Beyonce, anyone? Britney, too!) to become the image of beauty in the US! I read some God-awful article on what 13yo white and black girls consider the ideal. The white girls liked how "frail" some celebrity looked. Gack. The liked looking sick! That's so sad. The black girls liked the curves and strength.

Posted by: atb2 | September 12, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Interestingly, however, at my son's school, fully 1/3 of the white children chose darker skinned faces. Boys and girls did that, my son included.
Posted by: Andrea | September 12, 2007 09:45 AM

That happens all the time at our Montessori school - except with all the children seemingly randomly choosing colors rather that just the white kids.

Our school community is very ethnically diverse; we even have a vegetarian lunch option to accommodate our large Indian community. We are however, fairly homogeneous from a socio-economic class standpoint - seems that the majority of parents are in the high-tech industry around metro-DC.

Our children (3 and 6) have brought home self-portraits in just about every shade of humanity. We even got one in a particularly lurid shade of green that was meant to illustrate our "Irishness" - isn't 4 a grand age?

I suspect that it is the very diversity of our school that fosters this apparent lack of color awareness. It will be interesting to see if our children can maintain this approach as they get older - DH and I certainly plan to do our best to see that they do.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse


What about blonde dolls -- seems like about 98% of "white" dolls are blonde...not exactly proportional to actual population.

Posted by: John Bailo | September 12, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

When I was a kid, I wanted a cabbage patch doll. We woke up at 5am and stood in line at Children's Palace to get a ticket. A woman came up to us from the front of the line and asked if I wanted her ticket because they only had black dolls left. Hell, I wanted a Cabbage Patch kid so I said sure. Well, I knew even at that age that my grandparents were bigots so I wrote my grandmother a letter and told her that I had adopted a black baby doll named Lolita. She sent the sweetest note ever saying how proud she was to have a black great grandbaby. It was sweet. Fast forward a couple decades, and my daughter went to the store and wanted the "same baby doll that Jenny has." We found the same baby but this baby was black, not white like Jenny's baby. I just said, "did you find what you wanted?" She said yes and we left. When Jenny saw the baby she said your baby is black and my daughter looks down and says "yeah isn't that cool, now we can tell them apart so we know whose is whose"

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | September 12, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

My (3 and 6) children are both very fair and blond and blue eyed, as are my husband and I. My children have friends and relationships with people of many colors and nationalities because we live in Washington and its easy (thank god). That is one of the reasons we live here. My children are very frank about skin color if it ever comes up. What I mean by that is they actually name the color closest to the actually individual's skin color. My kids both get great tans (yes, even with high spf sunscreen so please dont deviate here), especially my son who is a beautiful dark shade right now. So, right now, he is brown as far as he is concerened. Really, he is right. This is just at a basic level about nothing more than melanin and right now he has a lot of melanin in his epidermis. I wish everyone saw it that way. As for dolls, my children both prefer stuffed animals as I did as a child. Categorically, I dislike Barbies and think the whole Bratz thing is really out there. I have heard about the new Disney movie with a dark skinned princess and think its great but, my kids both love Cars and the Lion King best so I am currently (mostly) escaping the whole princess thing as well (yay!).

Posted by: pallio | September 12, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is 25 now; when she was 4 years old, she started going to a Montessori/daycare school that was multiracial (we are Caucasian). Very soon after she started there she announced to me that she needed a brown baby doll... so we went and got one. Before that time she had not been with children of other races much, but as soon as she was, she realized her collection was not representative enough! I guess really she wanted her fantasy play to include kids like the ones she was playing with.

As to why we didn't have one before that... my fault really, I didn't think of it, I should have...

Posted by: catherine3 | September 12, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

No Bratz dolls for my little girl ever!


Me either, IG. They are everything i hate about what pop culture thinks a woman should be.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

For an insightful analysis of how children truly view race I suggest you read I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race Conscious World by Marguerite A. Wright.

My three year old peach daughter on seeing the first picture of her soon to be brown sister said, "Look mom a picture of me!" They do not see it the way do, not at all.

We have dolls in all shades and neither of my children in my home have ever batted an eye at receiving a brown doll as a gift (the kids in my home are peach-the ones soon to join are brown-I'll see how they feel about it).

cb

Posted by: cb | September 12, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

My daughters are all white (light pink?) with very dark hair, and have dolls spanning the color spectrum (including a few shades of skin and hair I've never seen on an actual human being). Beyond a phase my oldest went through a couple years ago where she said the blond-haired dolls (including one with a very dark skin tone!) were the prettiest, I haven't noticed them making any differentiation between them.

Of course, they have friends and cousins they're fairly close to who are all sorts of skin tones, so it's not like they expect anything different than that among their own playthings, I suppose.

Posted by: David | September 12, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"We have all races and even religions of dolls."

You have a Hasidic Jew doll and a Buddhist doll and a Burqua-clad doll?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Ryan - you want to delete my post because it annoys you? Geez... That's real nice.

Posted by: jj | September 12, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Here's a great story, about slightly older kids and color. Last year, my fair-skinned, blue-eyed DD (8th grade) saw her pediatrician (who happens to be black) in school one day. She stopped and said hi. One of her friends said, "who was that?" When DD explained that he is her doctor, the friend said, "You have a black doctor? I'm black and I don't have a black doctor!" I love living in Prince George's county.

Posted by: Loren | September 12, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"We have all races and even religions of dolls."

You have a Hasidic Jew doll and a Buddhist doll and a Burqua-clad doll?

Posted by: | September 12, 2007 11:28 AM

my blond haired, blue eyed nieces have indian dolls in saris, african dolls in traditional dress, a buddhist doll in orange and an amish doll. don't know that we've ever run across a hasidic doll. as for a burqa-clad doll, call me prejudiced if you must, but i can't see how that conveys a lesson i or my sister would want them to have. we should teach them to respect other cultures, but i'm not sure we need to teach them that all choices are positive. we want them to grow up to be strong, confident, accomplished women who don't have to hide from anything. seems to me that a burqa-clad doll would be counterproductive to these goals.

Posted by: flame if you must | September 12, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

all of my friends in elementary school in the 1970s had black dolls, well, we each had the same one: Lt Uhuru's star trek action figure.

All hailing frequencies open captain.

and of course many people had the black GI Joe as well.

What I definitely know is that exposure to friends of different races is no determinant on teenage racism. I had friends who turned 13 and just abandoned all their African-American friends for the pettiest of reasons and tried to turn us racist too by constantly pointing out what they termed "trashy" clothes or "lame" music or incomprehensible slang.

Posted by: DCer | September 12, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

You have a Hasidic Jew doll and a Buddhist doll and a Burqua-clad doll? What a snarky comment. A moslem baby would not be in a Burqua.

Posted by: anonymous | September 12, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I would also like to comment that this is a problem for lots of white people as well. I don't look a thing like the "white" standard of beauty- ie, I don't look northern European, and as a little kid I was always acutely aware that I would never live up to the standard of fair skin, small features, staight hair, etc, and I really never felt like I could ever be "pretty" until I got to high school, which was much more diverse.

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I've heard this before and I find it truly bizarre. Classic beauties are not all blonde, blue eyed, and skinny and unless all the kids are exposed to is the newest Paris Hilton film I just don't get it. The Italian look, dark wavy or curly hair, has always been a beauty type that Easter European girls in my high school went for. Asian girls in my school from Japan to Vietnam to India had their own things going on that represented their cultures. And there were Latin portraits of beauty in movies going back to the 1930s and in like every single cowboy movie I ever saw. We never saw blonde and blue eyes as a goal, really.

But I had a friend who was Hungarian who told me she really felt she grew up as a person of color because she had dark hair and skin. That is entirely self-inflicted and not part of society. Society can't take responsibility for such strange worldviews.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"When Jenny saw the baby she said your baby is black and my daughter looks down and says "yeah isn't that cool, now we can tell them apart so we know whose is whose"'

--That's very sweet, MomTo2Kids. :-)

Posted by: Soguns1 | September 12, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

for the pettiest of reasons and tried to turn us racist too by constantly pointing out what they termed "trashy" clothes or "lame" music or incomprehensible slang.


trashy clothes,lame music and incomprehensible slang, yep that what I want in my friends too. sign me up-not!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

"Ryan - you want to delete my post because it annoys you? Geez... That's real nice."

--jj-your previous comment was overly simplistic and short-sighted. Your comment even irrated me.

Posted by: Soguns1 | September 12, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"I've heard this before and I find it truly bizarre. Classic beauties are not all blonde, blue eyed, and skinny "

I think you misunderstood my post. I never said "blonde and blue eyed." What I meant was that if you are the only kid in your school with dark, frizzy hair, an aquiline nose, and olive skin, and you never see anyone else who looks like you, you are going to feel "different." Even the "dark" beauties in old moves are really very western-european looking people with dark hair. The facial features are still the typical northern european ones.

Posted by: reston, va | September 12, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When my daughter was 2.5 we went to the store so she could pick out a doll. She chose a black cabbage patch kid, I got it for her. My MIL was horrified that I would get get a doll like that as my daughter is blonde with blue eyes. My MIL actually went out and bought her a white doll that my daughter never played with. She played with her cabbage patch kid for a very long time, it was actually the only baby doll she ver liked. Fast forward to age 12 and she sees no color. When segregation came up in class she couldn't understand why anyone would care about skin color as she is more tan than her Mom and that doesn't matter to her. She has friends of all races and doesn't even mention skin color to describe them, it is the girl with short black hair, or the girl with the long brown hair. I am very proud of her. I think that racism comes from the parents whether they speak it or not, it is in their actions and attitude.

Posted by: California Mom | September 12, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes, we actually have a clothe buddah doll from Viet Nam, a muslim Barbie type doll, and the magic attic Jewish doll. Our Magic attic doll is reform Jewish according to her stories. It is possible.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh we have an amish doll too. Catholic and protestant dolls. It is possible to integrate religion into doll play. Of course our collection does not represent all religions. The point is to show our daughter that different people have different religious and cultural practices.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

What I meant was that if you are the only kid in your school with dark, frizzy hair, an aquiline nose, and olive skin, and you never see anyone else who looks like you, you are going to feel "different." Even the "dark" beauties in old moves are really very western-european looking people with dark hair. The facial features are still the typical northern european ones.

---------

Ok, so I stoled the blonde and blue eyed comment from another poster.

I saw an interview with Cindy Crawford where she said she felt ostracized and different because she was a chemistry whiz with a 4.0 average and all the girls she knew in high school were into books and poetry.

Cindy Crawford says she felt ostracized.
Cindy Crawford.
The supermodel.
She was not ostracized, it was all internal.

I was totally ostracized in high school and only made it to my 10 year reunion because I was bored and when I got there all these people came up and told me about how funny I made their classes.

What about all those friday nights with no parties and nowhere to go? They only remembered me being fun in class. What if my problems were all internal that no one ever considered?

What if it was always only in our heads and never in anyone else's? What if that's the way that happened? If we recognized that at 17 or 18 how would we think of our lives differently?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Our muslim doll has just the head scarf. Not the burqua thing. I think the burqua is a cultural requirement in some muslim countries and is not officially a muslim requirement. Our take was quite different. We felt it was important for our daughter to see this early on because she is being raised in WDC. She already goes to preschool with kids who wear the head scarf. We wanted her to feel comfortable around muslims and understand that the head scarf was not a sign of subordination but a sign of modesty in their faith. Just as it is for Amish women. So I guess I don't see that conflicting with being a strong educated person. I know several educated strong muslim women who do choose to wear the head scarf.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Fast forward to age 12 and she sees no color. When segregation came up in class she couldn't understand why anyone would care about skin color as she is more tan than her Mom and that doesn't matter to her.


Awwww, all due to a black cabbage patch doll. Note to all well meaning white folks who feel bad about being white. You can fix it all by buying a black doll. Get a story book about an Iranian girl and you can sleep at night knowing your children will not see race or creed. Who knew?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Again, can we please start deleting messags written by Ryan? It would make for so much more productive discussions.

Posted by: I love censorship! | September 12, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

You are wearing rose colored glasses if you don't think this happens!

Posted by: seen this happen many times | September 12, 2007 02:09 PM

And white girls end up pregnant and dumped by white guys as well - so lets drop the prejudice and just admit what you have seen is irresponsible hormone driven teenagers or young adults

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome,
there's a BIG difference between the burqa and the headscarf. i wasn't disputing that one can be an "educated strong muslim woman"; however, my personal belief is that while the head scarf may not be a sign of subordination, the burqa certainly is.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I think kids certainly do see and notice color- but only as a reflection of their own world and how they are learning and processing.

We don't really formulate ideas of "what white means" and "what black means" until we get older and are TAUGHT those ideas IMO.

One story for me was when I was in kindergarden I remember licking two boys sitting next to me. It was absolutely innocent fun but the teacher saw and asked what I was doing. I said I was tasting them because one was vanilla (white) and one was chocolate (black). She was just totally horrified with my saying that and made me very shamed for what I did. I learned THAT lesson far more than anything to do with color.

And as someone who has an extremely sensitive sense of smell, it's completely legitimate that I was simply "tasting" how other people were to me.

Posted by: Liz D | September 12, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

2:24, I agree that the burqa is a sign of subordination to me as well. I would not choose to buy a doll that was wearing one. I just wanted to tell the person who thought all muslim dolls would be wearing a burqa that is NOT the case. I think the original post that I was replying to was a nasty comment to get a rise out of people.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I've removed the comment that violated washingtonpost.com's policies and other comments that referred to it. Thanks to those of you who have been having a thoughtful discussion today.

Whenever you see a comment that violates the rules, please send an e-mail to parenting@washingtonpost.com .

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | September 12, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Stacey: A lot of people choose to be septage out of pure hatefulness. They're not happy unless they're rattling cages, pushing buttons, jerking chains. I stopped reading the OB blog solely for that reason.

Posted by: Anon for today.... | September 12, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Well I can understand why Stacey pulled some of those, but I hope this won't sink into a Politically Correct blackhole.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Stacey,
How about all the vulgar comments in the nursing blog the other day? I don't even want to go back and check if they're still there- I'd rather not have to read them again.

Posted by: va | September 12, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Nope, I just checked. All still there. And I emailed the post about it the other day, too. I'm talking about borderline pornographic stuff.

Posted by: va | September 12, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

To 1:56 that missed the point

I think that racism comes from the parents whether they speak it or not, it is in their actions and attitude.

This is the real reason she is color blind, the cabbage patch doll story just outlines that she has never thought anything of color, just what she found appealing. As my father used to say "Your ignorance is showing"

Posted by: California Mom | September 12, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"What if it was always only in our heads and never in anyone else's? What if that's the way that happened? "

Boy, I can't tell you how much I wish my elementary/middle school experiences had only been "in my head." I went to school with a bunch of very rich, snobby kids who were almost all white and those kids were vicious toward anyone who didn't fit into their little mold.

Posted by: reston, va | September 12, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think kids care about color. My best friends were korean growing up. Kids only care if they like the kid. Nowadays, teams have all sorts of kids, white, asian,hispanic, indian black whatever.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

When segregation came up in class she couldn't understand why anyone would care about skin color as she is more tan than her Mom and that doesn't matter to her. She has friends of all races and doesn't even mention skin color to describe them, it is the girl with short black hair, or the girl with the long brown hair. I am very proud of her. I think that racism comes from the parents whether they speak it or not, it is in their actions and attitude.

Posted by: California Mom | September 12, 2007 12:36 PM

Hey, Ca Mom, are you in the SF bay area? This sounds like a story a good friend told me about her daughter. My friend was trying to figure out which classmate the daughter was telling her about, and even though the mom was the a classroom volunteer, she couldn't until she asked about the classmate's race.

My friend was kind of embarrassed telling the story, because she didn't think she was race-conscious - think cliche Berkeley liberal - but she was proud when she found out that her daughter was truly colorblind.

I've since had similar things happen with my sons. I'm very proud of them. I didn't want them carrying around the limitations I have from my early childhood in Idaho where I never met anyone of a different race. So we're in a very diverse neighborhood, and the boys attend public schools (good ones!) that are ethnically diverse.

This is a long way from the doll topic of the day, and I don't really have anything to add to that subject. No daughters, and my sons completely ignored the (rare) dolls they were given.

Posted by: Sue | September 12, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes the mention of race is necessary. For instance: A couple winters ago a local radio station broadcast a look-out for an elderly man with Alzheimers missing from his home. They described what he was wearing, height and weight but never mentioned a race. Apparently they thought they'd get in trouble for mentioning race on the air! I called the local police station to see if we were looking for a white man, a black man or an Asian. He was black and unfortunately the poor soul froze to death before he could be found in an open field near where he used to work. It was a bitter cold day after a snow and he left home in the night without a coat. That makes me sad to this day.

Posted by: Anon again... | September 12, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

White, black, whatever ... color me cynical on this one...

Honestly, I don't think it matters. Observe the lunch table at any high school, or even college: generally --- blacks sit with blacks, whites sit with whites, Japanese sit with Japanese, Muslims with Muslims, Vietnamese with Vietnamese, et al ad nauseum. Multiculturality as a goal is all fine and good, but it's not just about skin color, it's about MORE IMPORTANT commonalities like values and culture that minority groups might share. For instance, although I like my Vietnamese classmates, they clearly feel they have more in common with each other than with non-Vietnamese students, and so they hang out together more often than they hang out with non-Vietnamese people. Same with any of the above groups that I mentioned. It doesn't mean that I (or most people) won't have friends who are black/Asian/Muslim ... just that chances are that we will not have too many of them. It's human nature, and it has nothing to do with what dolls we got when we were kids. I don't think it's right or wrong - it just is what it is.

Posted by: StudentMom | September 12, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

No actually, the original comment you were replying to wasn't trying to stir up stuff, it was pointing out that you say weird things. Like a Catholic and/or a Protestant doll? What exactly makes a doll look Catholic? (crucifix around the neck, Rosary in the hand?) Protestant? (?????)

Posted by: to foamgnome | September 12, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

"A moslem baby would not be in a Burqua."

Since when are all dolls babies? Barbie isn't a baby. American Girl dolls aren't babies. Bratz dolls aren't babies.

Posted by: to anonymous | September 12, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I was really surprised to read the thing about the Vietnamese sitting with other Vietnamese at lunch. By the time I was in high school this had completely stopped. Sure the metalheads, of whom only one was a black woman and the rest white or Latin, sat together. Sure the people who listened to rap sat together (Black, Latin, Jewish and white) and sure the brainy kids sat together (all races, but almost all of the Indian and Pakistani kids) and sure the punks sat together (white, Jewish and asian). But when you think back to the jock table in high school, you know it was white and black kids right there together- that was true of every sports team in the whole county. I definitely never saw the kind of lunch room segregation that other people talk about- It just didn't happen in Montgomery County back then.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

My almost 10 year old daughter is biracial, and has both white and black dolls. It is nearly impossible to find dolls that actually look like her though - my daughter is tan and her hair is black with tightly curled hair, but the black dolls in stores are almost always darker brown skinned, while the Hispanic dolls are her complexion, but usually have brown hair. And, both black and Hispanic dolls almost always have flowing, straight ro wavy "Caucasian" type hair. Her favorite doll (and the only one I've found that actually resembles her) is a doll from the Holly Hobby brand. My husband and I found it at Walmart last year around Christmas time. It's called "Carrie" and is a light brown color with actual tightly curled hair - not wavy or straight hair. I had to buy it for her for Christmas when I saw it. It was nice to see a black doll with hair that actually resembles what I consider an average black or biracial child's hair. My daughter's other favorite doll is a "Midge" (Barbie's friend) doll she got for Christmas from a relative when she was 3, because it has red hair, like me (her mom). Someone made a comment that red haired dolls are hard to find - I would have to agree with that - doll makers seem to think that all white children have blonde hair and blue eyes. I remember back in the early 1980's there were a line of dolls called "My Child" that were realistic looking baby dolls with a whole range of hair, skin and eye colors, and hair textures, and made to look like a variety of ethnicities. I remember my younger sister and I really, really wanting one. I don't know why no other mainstream toys companies have made anything similar since. I know American Girl dolls come in varying hair/skin/eye colors, but they aren't affordable for the average parent, and don't they mostly all have straight or wavy hair?

Posted by: Laura | September 12, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

We have two Catholic dolls. One is Miss Clavel from the Madeline series and she is a Catholic nun. The other is Nellie from the American Girl series. She comes with an Irish cross and in her books she is an Irish Catholic. We also have Anne of Green Gables who in her stories is a Protestant. I don't think you know enough about dolls to say that dolls in themselves do not have religions. Especially dolls that are based on characters from books.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 13, 2007 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Just some information: Dolls that have specific religions:
Jewish
Heather from the Magic Attic Series
Lindsey from the American Girl Series
Gali Girls-specifically intended for Jewish girls

Catholic
Miss Clavel-a Catholic nun from the Madeline series
Nellie from the American Girl Series
You can make an "assumption" that any of the Madeline characters are Catholic as the story takes place in a Catholic boarding school

Protestant
Anne of Green Gables
Diana Berry of Anne of Green Gables
Emily of New Moon
Kirsten from the American Girl Series-most likely Protestant as she immigrated from Sweden during the Pioneer days-celebrates Christmas in her stories

Muslim
Razaeen -A muslim Barbie type doll

So yes, it is possible to have dolls that have religions. Most of these dolls are based on story books except the Gali Girls and Razaeen.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 13, 2007 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Of course Amish dolls are anabaptist Protestants. I am sure there are some designed to have Eastern faiths and African faiths as well. My point is that dolls are often set with "characters" revealed through books or movies. Sometimes their religion is mentioned in the story book itself.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 13, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Now you've just proven that your daughter has far too many toys.

Posted by: to foamgnome | September 13, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

My daughter does not have all the dolls listed in the 7:36 AM post. These are dolls we know about. My point was to mention to other parents interested in purchasing dolls with a religious back ground. I also posted it to inform people that not all dolls come with a generic "make up" your own story. Some dolls are based on complex characters from books or movies.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 13, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Children cannot have too many toys, that's like saying they have too many books.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I had dark skinned dolls mixed in with my predominantly white collection during my childhood and found I was colorblind much longer then most (at times through adulthood). I now live in Africa and find the African dolls I send to white American children always well received by them and their parents. As a white adoptive parent of two African girls we represent more then one race in our home, not just our doll collections.

Posted by: Nairobi | September 17, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

My son is only 18mths old and doesn't have many toys that don't protray a blue, red or green fuzzy monster or car at this point. He has one doll that I got because it looked like him and I wanted to use it to show him how to 'be nice' to something etc. But after reading this article, when I start buying human like figures and toys, I'll make sure to buy a variety of races, I think that's a great idea. His daycare is mixed and a good balance, and I'd like him to continue to have that world view.

Posted by: Dianne | September 20, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I have a high-yellow black sister which prefers to play with dolls that look like her which might be closet to caucasian dolls.
For myself im more on the lighter side than on the darker side,and i used to prefer to play with dolls of color not to say that theres something wrong with caucasian dolls ,but i like discovering rarely seen cultures around the world. My granny is mixed and has always said that playing with a doll of one race isn't bad but theirs more out there than just one race of a doll.

Posted by: diamond | October 15, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

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