Children who associated positive traits (i.e., smart, nice, good, good looking) for pictures of lighter skin tone children also generally selected darker skin tones for children with negative traits (dumb, mean, bad ugly) and vice versa; children who selected darker skin tones for children with positive traits selected lighter skin tones for children with negative traits.
After reading the study online, I wonder what parents are supposed to do with such information. CNN wants its viewers to tell it where to go from here, but I hope the news agency does more to address the study from a parental point of view. We talk about race in our home all the time, mostly when it comes up. I don’t think I should start my own Race 101 class, but I answer Simone and Nadia’s questions honestly when they surface. And they have surfaced. Simone wanted to know why brown people drive old cars, and I will never forget when she told me I am black girl and she is a white girl.
As a journalist, I know it is very difficult to interview children, and it is best to ask open-ended questions. Children are far more sensitive than adults to any words placed in a question. I also know children are influenced by who is asking the questions. The children in the study were interviewed by women who shared their race. I couldn’t help but think the researchers asked the children to discriminate in situations where they may not have a choice in real life. Children may choose their friends or have desires about who they want for friends, but those choices are based on matters outside of their control, mainly where they live and where they attend school.
I can’t recall ever wanting to have lighter or darker skin. My mother is light-skinned, and she told me how hard it had been for her growing up. Her high school classmates called her “yellow,” a term she despised, and they constantly questioned her blackness. My father is dark-skinned. My mother spoke lovingly about him and his skin color, and I adore him. My skintone is a mixture of Mom and Dad’s skin tone. Maybe I am lucky in that way. I don’t know.
The other thing that struck me is, I would not want my children to participate in such a study. I would be interested in how they would answer the questions, given they have one black parent and one white parent, but I don’t know that their answers today would mean a lot five, 10 or 15 years from now. That’s something I would be interested in seeing. Will the children who participated in the study change their attitudes over time?
So, what do you say? What are we to extract from this modern-day take of the 1947 Doll Test?