The White Doll
During the 1940s psychologists Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie Phipps Clark tried to demonstrate the negative effects of segregation on black children. They developed a test using four dolls, identical except for the skin color. When asked which doll they liked best, most of the black children chose the white doll. After the testing was completed, Clark concluded that "prejudice, discrimination, and segregation" caused African American children to develop a senses of inferiority and self-hatred. The results of the tests were used during court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, to show that segregation damaged the personality development of black children.
17-year old aspiring filmmaker Kiri Davis conducted her own "doll test" as part of her 2005 documentary "A Girl Like Me" in which she explores the problematic standards of beauty that many black women encounter and internalize. Interstingly, her experiement yeilds results similar to those of the Clarks. 15 of the 21 black children interviewed still prefer the white doll, associating it with greater value and beauty than its black counterpart.
60 years of civil right victories and a steady influx of powerful black icons and idols in the public eye have seemingly done little to alter the psychology of our children. Where does that leave us?