Last week, ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) brought back the famous doll experiments by sociologist Kenneth and Mamie Clark. Originally conducted the 1940s, the “doll experiments” studied Black school aged children’s attitudes about race by giving them identical white and Black dolls and asking which one they’d prefer to play with. Half a century ago when the original study took place, 63% of Black children studied said they’d rather play with the white doll.
Good Morning America’s findings 50 years later resulted in more Black children preferring and identifying with the Black doll. Although the slight improvement is a sign of progress, ABC only looked at racism as an interpersonal issue and failed to mention the more powerful forces of instititutional and structural racism that children of color also “unconsciously absorb”.
These sorts of studies make me wonder if these findings should be considered a sign of progress or interpreted as a sign of how little we’ve moved. I’m conflicted because I don’t think the doll studies are meaningful. This is shallow journalism, but I can’t help but be saddened when a young Black child has negative feelings toward a Black doll.