A couple of months ago, Kamryn and I were on the Marta train on our way home when this girl, no older than 9 years old, sat down next to us. I could tell she had just came from school because she was wearing her uniform and carrying her Frozen Princess Elsa backpack. I observed her as she shared her coloring book with my daughter. She was a dark chocolate brown with these long Senegalese twists reaching down her back. She was beautiful. I watched as she flipped to a picture of a princess and gave Kamryn a red crayon for her dress. She then turned to me and asked me what color she should use for her skin. Naturally I pick up a dark brown crayon and hand it to her. The girl looks at me confused and says, “that is not a skin color” and goes to grab a peach tone crayon for the skin. I will admit, I had to check myself and remember it was a child sitting across from me. I was so shocked that this little girl could feel this way. I looked at her directly in her eyes and told her,
“Brown is a skin color. It is the color of you. It is the color of your mother. It is the color of my daughter. It is the color of me”.
I could tell that her mother was slightly embarrassed by our interaction but I just smiled at her, trying to express to her through my look that it was ok. Looking back, I wish I would have said more to the mother, at least letting her know not to feel guilty about what just had happened but hopefully to take from it and take some time to properly educate her daughter on the beauty of who she is.
I would love to say that this is an isolated event. That this only happens so often that a little Black girl does not know that she is indeed a person. That the color of her skin is just as beautiful as the little White princesses and Barbie dolls that she sees constantly flashed across the television screens and on the store shelves. But it is not. More often than not, I see beautiful little brown girls carrying their White barbie dolls and wearing their Elsa or Cinderella backpacks.
Kamryn is only three years old. Since she has been born, I have been defending why I do not want friends to purchase her White Barbie dolls. I have heard every speech about why she needs to learn diversity, why the color of the doll’s skin should not matter, why I should not see color. In those instances, I wish I could have been able to flash back to that moment on the Marta to show those friends and family members exactly why this matters. There is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching our children diversity. There is no reason we should not educate them about different cultures but how can we do that when they are not even aware of their own?
It is important that our children’s dolls, these dolls that they use to immulate human beings, look like them. When our children play with their dolls and the dolls look like them, they are learning to see that as beautiful. They are learning an appreciation for melaninated skin tones.
I am sure that this list I have put together does not include all of the amazing doll makers creating dolls for us so I invite you to add your own in our comments section if they are not listed here. I will update the list to include all that are added. The next time you consider buying a gift for your daughter, niece, cousin, or sister, circulate our dollar and shop with these doll makers first.
15 Black Doll Makers You Should Know