In 2016 when my then four-year-old daughter was making her Amazon wish-list for Christmas, she wanted to add a baby doll to it. That’s not at all surprising. This girl LOVES her baby dolls. As we scrolled through the dolls available on Amazon, we found one we both liked. Honestly, I can’t remember now who noticed it first–my daughter or me. But, either way, I thought it was a good idea for her to add this particular baby doll to her wish-list.
Nevertheless, at the same time, I felt a bit self-conscious adding this baby doll to my daughter’s wish-list. What would relatives think (if anything) and would any of them actually buy this doll for my daughter? I wasn’t so sure. My daughter is a white girl as are all my relatives. This doll was African American.
How many little white girls have an African American doll to play with? I haven’t taken a survey, but I’m guessing not so many from my limited observations over the years. Thankfully, I had one growing up. Albeit, it was more of a rag doll than a cute little baby doll. I have no idea where she came from, but I loved her. Perhaps playing with a black doll as a child is partly why I wanted to encourage my own daughter to have one. In addition, one of my daughter’s “best friends” is African American. So, it made sense to me that we should own a black baby doll, but it felt like a choice to go against what society expects of a little white girl.
My parents did give my daughter the adorable African American baby doll for Christmas that year. We did have one comment from a relative thinking that was an interesting choice.
My daughter has lovingly taken care of “Ruth” for the past year and a half. Often, my daughter chooses a baby doll to go with her in public. I realized as she started taking “Ruth” with her out and about that I was self conscious about the doll again. What would people think? (Part of me knows I shouldn’t care what people think. But the other part of me still struggles with caring.) However, as time has passed, I realize that the presence of “Ruth” on our outings is declaring to the world that my white family cares for black people.
Recently “Ruth” joined us at karate. One of the other adults that I often make small talk with commented about the doll. This led into a discussion on race issues that lasted the rest of the karate class! Then, the next time I showed up at karate and sat by this lady, she immediately said, “To follow-up on our conversation from last time…,” and we started talking again for quite some time about racial issues in our country. Do you think we would have had these below the surface conversations without “Ruth” having joined us?
Can a baby doll improve racial harmony? When a little white southern girl is seen holding a black baby doll in Georgia today, it communicates something. People will notice. People will comment. Conversations will be had that otherwise would not have occurred. In addition, my daughter is thinking, at least subconsciously, about African Americans when she plays with “Ruth.” When I see the doll, I think of African Americans. “Ruth” is a constant wonderful yet subtle reminder to our family that God made diverse skin tones and we are all called to love each other.
Maybe this seems a bit over the top for you. It’s just a doll you think. Well, here is the deal…for my white readers, I ask you to consider this: would you buy your white girl a black baby doll? Would you allow her to carry it around town with you as you run your errands?
Can a baby doll improve racial harmony? I think so.
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