Race is always an important but tough topic to discuss. For white families, it’s especially important to do so in order to be educated allies. One way to be an active ally is to engage children in racial discussions, like teaching them to “see color,” and ensuring that the colors they see on people do not make them worse or better than them. Kids learn this stuff through talks, media, and of course play, so having adiverse set of toys andbooksis also important.
Soone mama really didn’t think twice when her daughter “Sarah” wanted a black doll that looked like her best friend “Alissa.” However, the neighborhood moms had a few different opinions.
The friendship between Sarah and Alissa (both fake names) began before the girls were even born.
“A pregnant woman moved into the house next to mine, we bonded over pregnancy, and we gave birth 2 days apart,” she explained. “The girls have been inseparable ever since. They hang out every day, they want conjoined birthday parties, we even built a door in our fence so they can play in both backyards without having to walk around the front of the house.”
Another shared interested between the best buds? American Girl dolls. So the moms plotted that for their kindergarten graduation they’d treat them.
When they got to the American Girl Place, the girls lit up.
“My daughter saw a doll that resembled Alissa and decided she wanted to create a doll that looked like her, and Alissa would do the same,” she went on to explain. “My daughter is white and Alissa is black. She designs the doll, the girls have a blast, it was so cute.”
Sadly, this is where things get weird.
“I threw a small graduation party at my house for all the kids in the class and their parents,” she wrote.
“Sarah proudly shows off her new toy to anyone who will pay attention to her, telling everyone she made it look like Alissa. Two moms have a weird look on their face when she shows them but I don’t think much of it. I heard a lot of people talking about the dolls but they’d stop when I came by. I assumed it was because they were expensive? Taking the girls into the city wasn’t cheap but I saved really hard. The party otherwise went well and everyone went home.”
The next day however brought to light some of the whispered drama.
One of the moms posted to Facebook about how buying a doll of a different race was “cultural appropriation” and “whitewashing.”
“It wasn’t directed at me but all the parents were agreeing in the comments,” she said. “I didn’t say anything about it. We had another party for the 4th of July. Sarah invited a bunch of her friends from school and only Alissa came. I figured everyone else had other plans but again, another Facebook post about how the parents didn’t want their kids hanging out with someone who ‘takes black dolls away from black girls.'”
She also said that they complained about Alissa’s mother “whitewashing” her for allowing her to buy a white doll. While both moms felt fine about buying the dolls at the time, the repercussions on the girls were brutal.
“I felt horrible that Sarah and Alissa couldn’t see their friends,” she went on to say. “The situation cooled off as all the kids went off to different elementary schools and they have new friends now but a Facebook memory prompted a new argument.”
So now the mom wants to know, did she do something legitimately wrong?
People were just as baffled by this as the mom.
“Are these women white? White women like to speak over actual black women sometimes about issues that they think they need to be a white knight in while any actual black woman wouldn’t care/think it’s adorable your daughter wanted a doll like her friend and her friend the reverse,” wrote one Reddit user.
(For the record, theyallare white, according to the mom.)
They also noted that, generally speaking, these parents had no idea what they were talking about.
“Also, white people buying black dolls doesn’t take black dolls away from black girls,” wrote one user. “It opens up the market, creating more demand, which means those black girls will have MORE dolls to choose from in the future.”
An when it came down to it, the truth is, it was just a wholesome moment between two best buddies.
“I think it’s adorable that your daughter wanted a doll that looked like her best friend…Those mothers are being ridiculous, no one is ‘taking away black dolls from black girls’ in this scenario- there isn’t a finite number and your daughter getting one meant another little girl couldn’t.”
Years ago, it was nearly impossible to find ethnically diverse dolls. Their availability now is important to POC girls, for them to value their skin color and hail it as beautiful. But it is also important forwhite children to have and see these dolls, so they nurture can care for them — which will hopefully translate well into their adult life.