How White Dolls Can Be Problematic

The Problem With White Dolls

I met my first Cabbage Patch Kid at show-and-tell in Kindergarten. Julie Jones brought in the cherubic April Lynn and passed her around. There must've been something slightly creepy about the way I fondled the doll's shiny plastic head and crunchy blond ringlets because before my time was up, Julie snatched her out of my hands. It didn't matter, I was already in love — I had to have one.

After months of constant whining, my mother finally capitulated and drove us down to Toys-R-Us. I raced toward the Cabbage Patch Kid aisle, and I distinctly remember my heart dropping when I gazed up at the rows of dolls. They were all Black. I don't remember this next part, but my mom said it was terrifying and humiliating — I apparently screamed at the top of my lungs, "I don't want a Black doll! I want one that looks like meeeeee!!"

Never mind that Cabbage Patch Kids, no matter the skin tone, looked nothing like my five-year-old self; I didn't understand why I couldn't have a White one. My mom recalls grabbing me and making a beeline for the exit; apologizing along the way for her terrifying child. I can only imagine how awkward it was for every person we passed.

As a White girl, my experience even at five-years-old was that dolls were supposed to look like me. As Lisa Hix explores in her excellent essay in Bitch, little girls of color in America have a very different experience. In a new documentary by Samantha M. Knowles, Why Do You Have Black Dolls?, Debbie Behan Garrett, the author of Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion, speaks about the importance of Black dolls.

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