My father only let me play with black dolls.
Up until I was 7 or 8, no matter how much I begged and pleaded for the doll with the prettier accessories, he stuck by his rule.
This wasn’t because of any hatred or prejudice, but simply because he knew that when I walked into the store, nearly all of the dolls I would see were skinny, white, and blonde with blue eyes.
Everything I wasn’t.
When I looked in magazines I saw white bodies in bikinis. And when I watched my favorite shows, I saw white faces. Of the few black faces that may flash across the screen, most of them would either be behind bars or behind a fast food counter.
My dad didn’t want this to be the story line I grew up believing I had to live.
He knew I was a little girl destined to grow up in a world where I would constantly be told that everything I was went against the standard of beauty and acceptability. And that I would be prettier if my skin were a bit lighter or more attractive if I lost a few pounds.
Now as a 19-year-old looking at the dolls my eight-year-old niece plays with, I’ve noticed a change. It’s not unusual or rare to see a doll with curly hair or a thicker waist. I finally have a real sense of hope that a future of acceptance and self-love was on the horizon. (Check out this new line of Barbie Dolls.)
That is until I came across this viral video. Two young white girls burst into tears after receiving black dolls for Christmas. Seeing hatred toward something as trivial as the coloring of a doll broke my heart. But what hurt even more was the laughter from the adults in the video who didn’t seem to mind the prejudice in the girls who were no older than five.
I soon realized that it wasn’t just about the toys we were given or what media we were exposed to. It’s about the mindset that’s instilled in us. No amount of diversity can prevent hatred and bias from being taught.
My father wanted to give me every chance and every opportunity to love myself. He did everything in his power to make sure I knew with every fiber of my being that I was beautiful and could do absolutely anything despite what others saw. He chose to teach me to see the best in myself and others.
He wanted me to know that it’s not just the white Barbies who can have Dream Houses.