I have heard of more recent studies based on the 1940s research by Kenneth and Mamie Clark, psychologists, who did an experiment where they presented Black children with Black and white dolls, identical beyond color. They studied children’s attitudes in response to the dolls. A majority preferred the white dolls. This response persisted in the more recent experiments.
Until Saturday these were just sad statistics I carried around with me.
However, Saturday I went to the Brickhouse Gallery in Oak Park to see their second-annual quilt exhibit, “A Stitch in Time: The Past, Present and Future” on the day they were having a tribute to African American doll artists and baby doll quilt makers.
During a presentation by Gloria Gandy, a doll maker, I heard this statistic again. Initially, the disappointment I feel for the glacial speed of social change in our nation rushed into my brain like a linebacker. But there is great hope in Gandy work, in the beautiful figures she creates.
Near the end, Gandy told us we could all learn to make dolls. And she told us where we can buy cottons in an array of flesh tones, dark brown, olive, tan, peach, reminding us that children of any hue need to know that they are beautiful.