Different Race Doll

There was a little girl who was at Target getting a reward for going poop on the poddy for a whole month.  Her parents let her chose any toy she wanted.  She chose a doll, that happened to be black.  At the checkout, the cashier was very confused.  She kept asking if this girl was going to a birthday party, implying she couldn’t have a doll that wasn’t white.  When told the doll does look like her, the girl said, “Yes, she does.  She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor.  And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl.  See her pretty hair and see her stethoscope?” This experience and the book Read All About It!: A Kit Classic, both have similar representations of the keyword innocence.

Sophia, the little girl, demonstrates childhood innocence.  Innocence, according to Gubar, is all about what you lack or what you can’t do.  For example, Sophia was lacking the stereotypical knowledge or racism that the cashier had.  One could argue that Sophia lacks the experiences that form the stereotypes that the cashier was demonstrating.  This little girl was looking more at what the doll was scripting and her beauty, than her race.  She wanted the doll partially because the doll was a doctor, just like Sophia.  She also went on about how the doll was pretty, just like she was.  This raised a question for me.  We have been talking about the importance of having Ethnic minorities represented in books because it is important for children to read about people who look like them.  It is especially important for their self-esteem and understanding of beauty.  Does this girl see this doll as pretty because she has read books about African American’s, because her parents have taught her about accepting everyone, or for a different reason? Does this example prove the importance of having ethnic books, or disprove that need?

Kit from Read All About It!: A Kit Classic, also demonstrates childhood innocence.  Her story takes place during the Great Depression and her father ends up losing his job.  Up until the very end of the book, Kit is very positive her dad will get a new job.  She is demonstrating innocence through a lack of knowledge.  She does not understand how dire the situation is and how hard getting a job is.  This partially has to do with sheltering done by her parents, but she also wants to believe nothing in her life her will change.  At the end of the book however, she loses her innocence and has more of an understanding how life will change.

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3 thoughts on “Different Race Doll”

  1. I think Sophia shows us the importance, not only to African American children, but also to majority children, that diverse representation in popular culture represents. I believe that acceptance of diversity comes with a combination of model influences, fictional representations, and a positive moral outlook. All of the above can be influenced by parents of children whether that be showing acceptance, buying certain literature, or providing moral structure. Parents can help their children become more like Sophia in ways of looking at experience, knowledge, and life as superior to race.

  2. This is a very fascinating article and you make some great points about the relationship between innocence and race. I do not think that this example disproves the importance of reading ethnic books, since their are still people like the cashier socialized into certain beliefs about race. This example plays on the idea of race as a learned concept and people see the beauty in difference at their most innocent state. If society works to make beauty standards inclusive of everyone, children can grow up understanding beauty as many different things. People like this cashier perpetuate race-based assumptions and I like to think people like this child can be the ones to stop them.

  3. This story is particularly frustrating because it demonstrates how the negative implications a society’s ideology can be imposed onto an innocent child. In my Race & Ethnic Minorities class, we spend a lot of time talking about how it is society that furthers racist ideologies and stereotypes, rather than people being born with knowledge of difference in race. While I do believe that the cashier’s questioning likely came from hidden racial biases, prejudices that are unconsciously imposed (often by over-arching societal ideology), I don’t think it was right for her to verbalize this bias. Much like the mother of the girl, it gives me hope to know that humans are not born racist, and we can hopefully change society in some way to halt the learning of these racial stereotypes.

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