I had a lot of dolls when I was younger.
My mom bought me some, I secretly stole others from my older sister and whenever I visited my grandmother she showed me an attic full of dolls that I could play with.
They were an extension of my imagination. They went to high school, they attended fancy galas in their shiny pink limos and at times, after I had been watching Divorce Court with my grandma, they were in court yelling and screaming at each other.
I dressed them up in different types of outfits and braided their hair. Part of my childhood was spent with my huge collection of plastic dolls.
Out of all of them, I think I only had one doll whose skin was darker than a rosy peach. I never thought twice about black dolls because there were always so many more white ones. The only time I encountered a huge collection of black Barbie dolls was when I visited one of my friends.
She had entire shelves of boxed black Barbie dolls, all clean and untouched. I don’t think she had a single white Barbie doll in her house.
The reason I take you down memory lane is because throughout most of my childhood I had no issue with having mostly white dolls.
I would play with white dolls, I would read books based on white girls. I would even turn on the TV and watch shows with white characters as the stars, with the exception of The Proud Family.
Where was my representation though? Why were there so many Judy Bloom’s or Alice’s but not many girls of color?
Sure, as a child I didn’t see race but I was taught pretty quickly how my race impacts my life. My older sister played with her doll Addy Walker. Addy Walker was an “American Girl” doll who was once a slave but ran away with her family to freedom.
Isn’t that a bit problematic? One of the original American Girl dolls was black and also a slave.
Fast forward to today and there is a mother who is determined to have a doll for her two daughters. Angelica Sweeting listened to her daughters say they wished their hair was “yellow” and that they had white skin like their dolls in order to be prettier, according to The Mary Sue.
So what did Sweeting do? She made a doll for her daughters. And she didn’t just make the doll darker with the usual white characteristics (I’m looking at you, Barbie). The Angelica Doll comes with full lips and a full head of curly hair that can be styled into any natural hairstyle.
This doll is not just for little girls to have something to play with, but also for them to be shown an image similar to themselves. It’s about time that black girls have as much representation as possible.
When is a better time to start than when they’re young?
I want Sweeting’s daughters and young black girls to feel like they actually belong and that having darker skin and thick hair is perfectly acceptable.
Let’s start adding more dolls like Angelica’s so that all girls will know the beauty and power of girls of color.
Photo courtesy of user Holly via Flickr.
Naomi Harris is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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