Dr. Britten Cole's Blog: Are Baby Dolls Making My Black Children Feel Inferior?
In her latest blog for PEOPLE, Dr. Britten Cole calls for fellow parents to "regain some personal responsibility" in teaching children about racial topics
Please welcome back our new celebrity blogger, Dr. Britten Cole!
Dr. Cole, an anesthesiologist and mother of two, splits her time between Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, where she’s starring on the inaugural season of Married to Medicine: Los Angeles. Aside from appearing on the hit Bravo series’ new spin-off, she is currently working on finding permanent medical employment on the west coast.
Before she became an anesthesiologist, Dr. Cole worked as an officer in the Navy alongside her best friend, Married to Medicine: Atlanta star Dr. Contessa Metcalfe.
Cole and husband Mack Major share two children: Mack Jr., 7, and Ivy, 8. You can find her on Instagram @brittencolemd.
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Parents newsletter.
In the black community, we are keenly aware that we are underrepresented in almost everything portraying a positive image, except perhaps the NBA. This is why as a black mom to two black children, it’s my obligation to teach my son and daughter about the strength and beauty that define the many shades of black skin.
I want them to know their beauty, despite what the images of the world might tell them. I want them to realize how far they can go and that any dream they have is possible. I emphasize to them that not seeing someone who looks like you doing something magnificent is no excuse for you not to dream it and become it. I tell them, “Just imagine: You will go down in history as the first.”
I was recently told that dolls can have a negative impact on a young black girl’s self-esteem, and I vehemently disagree with this. By choosing to inspire and educate my small black children about big topics around identity, their worth will be left to what they imagine themselves to be instead of being defined by the dolls or toys they play with. I refuse to allow their confidence to be determined by the cartoons they watch or the video games they play. It’s up to those of us raising these extraordinary children to get them on the correct path of enlightenment.
Children are great imitators, modeling the actions and emotions they see. No doll is capable of transforming a child into believing they’re inferior because they’re black. In 1940, doctors Clark & Clark conducted a study known as the doll test, asking children to differentiate between a black or white doll as good or bad. This study demonstrated the psychological effects of segregation (not dolls) on black kids’ self-esteem.
The children in this study experienced civil injustices against their race, witnessed attack dogs and water-hose beatings. They observed the constant berating of blacks by white teachers, humiliation by police officers and harassment by white contemporaries. Experience taught them that being black was “bad” while being white was “good.” These children unconsciously learned to be racist against themselves as society ingrained bigoted messages.
RELATED VIDEO: Angela Bassett Says Her Kids Have Faced Racism and “It Just Squeezes Your Heart”
Positive black representation is very important for the entire community. It teaches young black kids self-esteem and teaches everyone else that blacks have so much more to offer than what has been portrayed in history thus far. Blacks are fighting an uphill battle against a toxic system set in place centuries prior. So many minds, black and white, have been left imprisoned by history. Building a child’s self-esteem by exposing that youth to positive representation should take first roots in the home. Sending your child to an all-white school without nurturing a strong cultural foundation is setting a child up for failure, neglecting their own race to appropriate another.
Growing up, my family instilled in me a love and adoration for black culture, music, food and language. Though the majority of my dolls were black, I never felt superior to any other race, nor did playing with a white doll ever make me feel inferior. To say that a young girl’s self-esteem is so easily influenced by a doll just doesn’t give us enough credit of being able to dictate our own worth.
Traditional “girl” toys are very domesticated. If we assume dolls dictate young girls’ self image, how do we account for women ditching aprons to enter the workforce in droves, taking on more masculine roles? If dolls have that much of an impact on a child’s self-worth, than why aren’t boys affected the same way? Are we to assume that only girls are weak-minded enough to be influenced by plastic toys? When was the last time you heard of a young boy playing with a G.I. Joe who developed low self-esteem as a result?
I think sometimes we forget what it was like to be a kid. Ease and naiveté existed, with no thought to race or skin color. And I get that not all kids have good role models. But with the large variety of dolls now with an array of skin tones and ethnicities and even differences in body shape, there’s no argument that would have me believe that a doll’s skin color can make a young black girl feel anything but beautiful.
As a child, I was surrounded by a sea of black faces and knew how beautiful, strong and inspirational these faces were. I was proud to be black and to show others how dynamic we are. If you believe dolls negatively impact your young black daughter’s self-image, then buy all black ones. But the problem isn’t dolls. Let’s regain some personal responsibility. Start with parenting your children — and you my even find yourself having to parent some adults.
Catch Dr. Britten Cole on Married to Medicine: Los Angeles, which airs Sundays on Bravo at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST.