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January 13, 2007

Results Similar to 1954

A troubling 8-minute documentary made by a 17-year old, Kiri Davis, for a high school project, is likely to shake up the country.  Davis filmed about a dozen black children of diverse economic backgrounds in a preschool in New York City as she conducted a doll test with them.  This doll test was similar to one that Dr. Kenneth Clark conducted prior to the 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education. 

In both cases, young African-American children were shown two dolls, one white, one black and asked a series of questions.  Can you show me the doll you like?  Can you show me the doll that is the nice doll?  Can you show me the doll that looks bad?  And can you give me the doll that looks like you?  The children preferred the white dolls; the white dolls were the nice dolls.  The black dolls looked bad.  And reluctantly, they picked the black dolls as being like them. 

The tests conducted prior to 1954 helped convince the Supreme Court justices that black children were being harmed by the way they saw themselves and, by extension, by the different school systems they found themselves in.  But the results are very similar now, over five decades and some major changes in society later. 

The video-clip is on the KOMO website and was likely shown on TV screens across the country.  They are disturbing to watch.  In the most recent doll test that Kiri conducted, 15 of the 21 children preferred the white doll.

I have been close to young African-American children, whose parents were successful and confident.  Out of the blue, no test involved, I have heard the same things from young African-American friends.   "She's cute.  I wish I were white," I remember a child, maybe five, saying, while we were at a restaurant once when I was babysitting her while her parents got a much needed date night out. 

It nearly broke my heart.  I've remembered it and a couple of similar incidents from youngsters I spent time with.   

At the end of the clip, the reporter asks Kiri what she sees.  Kiri, who did the interviewing herself, says "Hopefully, one day, there won't be such a problem.  They won't prefer one doll over the other one."

Indeed.  And with the country regaining a measure of sanity after a dozen years somewhere else, perhaps we'll get a chance to talk thoughtfully about racism and its impact on our beautiful young people, white, black and every other color. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 13, 2007 at 09:31 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


The new test was not a shock to me. I work with young African American scholars everyday. Their self-esteem is so low. Example: if we are taking a survey and the box to check refers to race, African American scholars will interact with me in a conversation that sounds like this, "Which box do I check?" There's Indian in my family, or "I heard that my Great Grand Father Gerald was mixed with Indian." My point is: in 2007 when given a chance to choose, some African American scholars will want to choose another race than Black.

Posted by: B.C. Jackson | Jan 27, 2007 9:51:47 AM

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