Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Brown Baby Doll For A White Baby?

I have never posted about skin color before. I’m about to open a whole can of worms but that’s okay. It needs talking about. We tend to avoid this topic as it suddenly feels like we are a big clumsy elephant trying to dance through a china store. Today I write nothing new, ground-breaking or even intelligent, just a smattering of thoughts, as a mom, trying to figure out how to navigate this sea of political correctness and reality.

Here is a question for you to consider before we start.

Would you buy your white babies a brown baby doll? Would you buy your white babies books with a brown main character? Why or why not?

Now, as I parent two brown-skinned babies, who are forming their own identity of what is beautiful, I am more aware. One luxury of white privilege is that we don’t even notice it, we may complete deny its existence (which is another topic).

Our culture presents a subtle message that lighter is more beautiful. Recently it was time to get The Littles a comforter of their choosing. The comforter set they wanted to get:


I redirected. We chose a different one. Yes, there is a place for perfect-figured, blond-haired beauties but I don’t want my girls to have this princess standard of beauty (and it was just hideously gawdy).

Then there is the whole “Beyonce controversy”. Yes, even gorgeous Beyonce must be feeling the pressure of a culture, the unspoken message that lighter is more beautiful, more market-able or at least more acceptable. Look at her past advertisements compared to more recent ones.


As research has been done on parents and the way they are educating their children on skin color, it’s been shown that it is a topic largely ignored. We want our children to be “color-blind” but by not discussing this issue with our children (who are very observant), it results in them coming to their own conclusions brought on by subtle social cues and the media. What if Christian parents took the same approach to teaching their children about sex? What kind of lies would our kiddos pick up? Click here for a very insightful article on this topic.

We quietly sit by as the media forms for them a twisted perception of race. Our kids measure themselves and decide themselves as superior and inferior. We need to be proactively teaching a Biblical view of race, there is ONE race. We all descended from man. In response to the question, “Would you be comfortable with your child marrying a different race?” I heard a prominent pastor answer, “Of course NOT. My child can only marry another human being!”

We have to tackle this topic in our own hearts and then with our children. One object lesson that I’ve adapted as a starting point for young children comes from the book “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla”. Sit down with your kids and a bowl of M&Ms.


Talk about the differences they observe. Yes, the reds do look different than the yellows. Doesn’t it make it pretty to have a mixture of colors. Wouldn’t a bowl be so boring with only blue M&M’s?


When your kids bite in, look inside, it is all the same. Like us, maybe different in our coloring, our weight, socio-economic status, etc but it’s okay. It’s good. We are each uniquely created by God. Isn’t He creative?

Here are some books that are helpful too. These aren’t just for adoptive families trying to affirm an adoptive child of a different background. These are books we should all have, especially if everyone around your family is vanilla. ;)

We're different Book

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Could we make our toy boxes a little more representative of the colors of the world? Could our bookshelves be full of stories of heroes with all shades of skin?

Do you have ideas for intentionally teaching about diversity?


Nichole said...

my favorite cabbage patch doll when i was young was a black doll names Libby Dagmar (it was on the birth certificate :) i loved it and remember thinking there was nothing wrong with it. you bring up some great points. being intentional in our teaching that God made all of us, and loves each one of us the same. teach our children that before the world teaches them something different.

Val said...

Love your post, and 100% agree! My kids have white, brown, and of course asian baby dolls. My hubby, who is full asian, absolutely agrees that you cannot raise a child of a different race of most of those they're surrounded by, and ignore that fact. He believes we should prepare them, and teach them to celebrate their differences instead of ignoring them!

Amber said...

love this post Amy - thanks for the questions and thoughts. I think I'm going to add those books to my birthday list!

erica said...

We try to teach our children not to be color blind, but to celebrate the fact that everyone is different. Like you said, it would certainly be a boring world if everyone looked the same! Whether it is skin color, eye color, hair color, etc, we LOVE all the differences and are glad that God made our family so colorful! And Jordan's new favorite thing to do is point to our skin and say, "white chocolate," and then point to his own and say, "dark chocolate." I guess he figures we're just different shades of a very good thing! :)

Kyle and Trish said...

Here women all use skin lightener. A common compliment is, "You look so light today!" And the women who come from lighter skinned countries like mauritania or mali are all seen as so beautiful. Even the little kids here all want white baby dolls, they call them "doomu toubab" the white person's child.
It's so interesting to witness this, especially because the majority here is Wolof, who have incredibly dark black skin, which is so gorgeous! However there is an incredibly deep pride in who they are as Wolof, so it's not just because they want to be like western people, but just that light has somehow come to mean beautiful.

Vanessa at Lynn David said...

Great post. One of my biggest fears is, bluntly, that Eden will have a condescending opinion (even subconsciously) of people with different colored skin. That fear is probably based on my own prejudices growing up. I have been going out of my way to look for dark baby dolls and children's books on the subject. By the way, that Voddie Baucham sermon totally ripped me apart and revealed the ugly parts of my heart that still need to be worked over when it comes to the way I view race. (Before, I would not have viewed myself as still having prejudice...I'm glad my eyes have been opened.)

leah said...

this is a really neat post.

thanks for sharing...

bri said...

Thanks for your thoughts! It's so important to teach our children that God created us ALL and loves us all the same, no matter what color we are. Everyone is special!

ps. Kylin's American girl bitty baby has dark skin :)

Laura said...

Thanks Amy! Great post!

Sarah said...

Love, love, love this post!

The 3 Squirrels said...

Hey Amy! Great post and you bring to light some really awesome points and reality to today's world. I often find myself guilty of being the opposite .. caucasian vs color.... I choose color 95% of the time! I have to admit that often I am prejudice and would have a hard time buying a white baby doll for my little one... even though I am married to a wonderful caucasian man, it's just different. I have felt conviction in these areas especially when we were pursuing adoption I knew I was open to all shades of color but white! I prayed that if we were to pursue this dream of adoption my heart would need to be softened and open to the acceptance of a caucasian child... God has softened my heart and is still working. I appreciate your "can of worms" post! I will definitely be getting a few of the recommended books! God bless your day!

Heidi said...

Well said!! Crazy God's timing on this post as I just got back from Jonas' preschool had a president day parade ... there was an overwhelming amount of white children/parents ... for the 1st time I saw it through Jonas eyes and boy, do I want a school with wonderful diversity for him in the future!! As I know he is so aware he has brown skin as he tells me... thanks for your wisdom wish I could learn more from you about this topic... maybe some for post of ideas?

Misty said...

Great post!!!

I just want to say....my white skinned daughter's favorite babydoll is brown skinned. She loves this baby!! When all her babies are in a pile or basket, she picks the brown skinned baby every time.

So to answer your first question....would a white skinned mom buy a dark skinned babydoll for her white skinned daughter....I say yes!

Diversity should not be feared!!!

Wee said...

Great thoughts! My girls each have their own doll houses. Leah's choice for her family this past year was the African-American family. I am thankful that skin colors have never been an issue here! In fact, I think the girls enjoy the diversity God created.

Blume Family said...

We LOVE color! Our daughter has lots brown baby dolls gifted to her from friends and family who were thrilled to find them & give them to her. She has her share of white skinned ones too...she loves them all! "The Color of Me" by Linda McDunn is an awesome book about how GOD loves color! We usually opt for the princess garb that included Tiana, tons of the dolls (Strawberry Shortcake..)have friends that are brown skin...we have a good mix! We love raising a family to be comfortable in their own skin!

Sheila said...

This topic can be very difficult to address but you posted beautifully about it. I think I can say color has not been an issue for us...yet. We fully acknowledge our rainbow of white, Asian, African with a little native American and Scot/Irish thrown in! I think our acknowledgement of our differences allows us to be "colorblind". Our oldest has a crush on a multiracial girl in his class which thrilled and affirmed for us that we are on the right track. We were initially concerned that he was the only "white" child but he has come through it all with "flying colors".

As to what we do, we talk about differences, include a variety of books, toys, movies, etc. and share with them God's love!

Morgan said...

I teach kindergarten and this year I found a great idea on pinterest for teaching differences and diversity! Get a brown egg and a white egg and talk about what characteristics are the same and which are different. Then you crack open the eggs and put them side by side so the kids can see the contents. This sparks the discussion of how even though we may look different on the outside, the inside is the same. I thought it might be a little too advanced for kindergarten students, but they understood and made connections that I never would have guessed.

Jessica said...

So well written and SO true. We talk often about this topic as our kids are all very aware at this point of their differences on the outside, but they all also know that we are all the same on the inside.

I love the "shades of people" book and we own "we're different, we're the same."

I never realized what a "white" world we live in until we were waiting for our girls to come home and I read "the wheels on the bus" book and realized that there were only white characters in the WHOLE town--really people, a whole town?

It was eye opening.