Here I was, sitting in my political science class attentive and curious for what the class discussion may bring today. The Friday before, I remember being instructed by my professor to think about racism as we went about our weekend because when we returned for the next class, our class discussion would be pertaining to race, and he wanted to hear our thoughts. “Is there a such thing as white privilege?” is the first question that was asked to the students to kick off our discussion. I honestly was ready to be engaged in this topic of conversation, but as a black female, I felt conflicted and confused on what exactly to say. Think about it–I’m 1 out of the 3 black students in a class of over 30 students that are all predominantly white. So, I was thinking on how I could answer this question without sounding like the “angry black woman” or ignorant, as most would expect me to be. Long story short, I sat this question out and decided for once to listen to what the everyone else had to say and was relieved when I realized that the students that decided to answer this question responses were very scholarly, and I could somewhat agree with what they were saying. Then the conversation went on to an experiment that I had never heard of, “The Doll Test.” Sometime during the 1940’s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known as “The Doll Tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. The doctors used four identical dolls, except they differed in race. They asked children between the ages of three and seven to choose which doll they would prefer with, differentiating between and race and gender. Studies have shown that most of the children preferred the white doll and spoke positive characteristics about the doll. Clarks concluded that, “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem.
Now, I ask you to take a minute and think about this experiment and why this is so. This same experiment was conducted recently in 2007 at a university in New York that shows a visual representation on “The Doll Test.” After watching this video in class, I began to get chills seeing the black children choosing the white doll because it was “prettier than the darker colored doll.” Hearing light skin and dark skin girls express that at a point in time they wanted to bleach their skin or didn’t feel pretty enough in this world had my mind-racing. I was infuriated and upset with society and wanted to sink in my seat. I was kind of embarrassed and uncomfortable being the 1 out of 3 black students in a class of non-black students discussing this topic. Will they look at me different? Do they think I grew up with disliking the color of my skin too? These were questions that began to race throughout my head.
So, in that very moment, I felt the need to speak up and be the voice for my people. I began to express that all black girls do not feel this way and believe it. I do believe that “seeing color” is a trait that is learned that society teaches. I also expressed that for someone to say, “I don’t see color” is ignorance and it’s a lie. Colorism, race, etc., is a heavy topic that is debatable, and I can go on and on about. Think about it, we have “black twitter”, #BlackLivesMatter, we have shows titled “Dear White People.” It’s everywhere whether we like it or not.
Colorism is playing a part in our society and honestly, I had no idea what direction I wanted to go when writing this article without feeling like I would offend anyone or having someone feeling uncomfortable or uneasy when reading my article. Race is something that has come up in multiple of my class discussions, as well as organizations meetings, so I just felt intrigued to share my food for thought and leave you with something. So, I’m going to leave you with these questions to think about as you go on to your day to day lives…. Do you think civil rights activist helped paved the way or made any difference? Do you think there is white privilege? Do you see race?
My favorite actress Gabrielle Union once said, “You can love what you see in the mirror, but you can’t self-esteem your way out of the way the world treats you.”
Okay… I’m done now, stay tuned for more!