Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Doll Test: White = Good And Black = Bad



In the 1940's Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed the doll test to examine how black children were impacted by segregation. Most of the children were able to identify racial difference. The children also readily assigned positive attributes to the white doll and negative attributes to the black doll.

The year is now 2008, and it has been fifty-four years since the Brown V. Board of Education. One would assume that within such a large time span that much would have changed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When tested today black children still chose the white doll over the black doll. It is clear that we have not escaped the legacy of slavery. Systemic racism continues to stunt the growth, and self-esteem of our children.

Black children have internalized the self-hatred that has been promoted by our social institutions. Whether it is the media, or schools etc, everywhere there is the message that black is less than, inferior, and not worthy of love. The eyes of the child in the video speak of a soul that has been damaged. As a mother it breaks my heart, as a WOC it enrages my soul.

In the education system black history is the focus in February during Black History month. The glaring absence of an Afrocentric influence throughout the rest of the school year destroys the attempt of inclusivity. This approach diminishes the contributions of POC, as well as further entrenches racial hierarchy wherein white or Caucasian achievements are necessarily more substantial as they consume the majority of the curriculum. Through invisibility and marginalization, black children learn that their history is not worthy of critical analysis, and that they do not originate from a people that offered anything of value to the world. When the education system later directs them on paths that do not lead to higher learning, they are more readily accepting, after all if blacks have not achieved in the past, why should they?

The media is another large culprit in the devaluation of POC. Blacks are either marked by invisibility, or portrayed as criminals, sidekicks, and servants. Very seldom do we see black characters in successful positive roles on prime time television, or as leading actors in major films. Yes I know we have our Denzels and our Haille Berrys (for the record I am NOT a fan of that woman) but when compared to leading Caucasian actors they are not given as many roles,or roles that offer the same diversity. Consider that Denzel won an award for being a corrupt cop and Haille won her award for playing the role of a woman, who in a time of emotional vulnerability, slept with the executioner of the father of her child. We are often the decorative object rather than the necessary subject in many fictional dramas.

Most importantly black children need to see black people succeeding each and every day. They need role models other than professional athletes and entertainers. Those that have succeeded in that avenue are but a small percentage of the population, and it is not possible for the majority to take that path out of poverty and marginalization. We cannot shuck and jive our way into respectability and self love. Our children have told us so, not only in previous generations but today in the here and now. Though the we no longer bare the physical chains of slavery the psychic and emotional damage are omnipresent. We remain colonized members of a so-called free and equal society. Our children are internalizing the pathology of racial hatred to the detriment of our future as a people.

39 comments:

ouyangdan said...

i have often chewed over whether or not having a "insert X here" month does any good at all...you are right. it goes along w/ how i feel about mother's day (not the best example, bear w/ me), that it feels like we don't acknowledge or appreciate these people the rest of the year. it feels exclusionary.

i guess i have mixed feelings.

very thought provoking post.

ouyangdan said...

oh, also...the thing about the dolls...just...wow.

cyn said...

The look on the last girl's face when she says she looks more like the black doll breaks my heart. Such a young girl has already starting to learn to hate herself and who she is genetically. I'm not saying there's a perfect age for self-hatred. It shouldn't exist at all. But that girl's face is so depressing. I wish she could love herself and look at herself and people of all races as capable of being good.

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