I can talk about race (in the classroom)

Barbie Basics-My Muse for tomorrow

About halfway through my presentation called; “I can see race (in the classroom)”  tomorrow I am going to hold up this Black Barbie, still in her box. I plan to ask the 50-75 teachers in the audience to tell me what message they think it would convey to their Black (and all) students if they had grown up playing with her along with the more common blonde and white version. (No, we are not talking about gender, or the messed up proportions that the Barbie exhibits….this time.)  I am going to introduce this doll by telling them what one of my Black students said when I told her I bought it for my kids. She looked so confused. I explained that I wanted to get her because she was so beautiful. What message do you think they took in when I chose this one over the other versions on the shelf?

She paused. “I guess they know now that they aren’t so weird.”

“Weird?” I said. ‘What do you mean?”

“Well, when you see one that looks like you, you don’t feel so weird.”

Do you know how many more of these dolls I want to buy now?

Talk about a living example for why colorblindness (the idea that we don’t see color–that everyone is the same) renders our children invisible.  I am really looking forward to the work I am taking on tomorrow. I have so much to learn about this work, and am so hopeful about the conversations that will happen tomorrow. So very hopeful.

What risks have you taken recently in the anti-racist ally department? Small or large? How are you keeping the conversations going? What plans do you have to do so? Inspire us!


  1. My daughter’s first dolls were the hispanic versions. To this day, she prefers the tanned dolls but the blondies are creeping up fast. Her favorite princess is Jasmine.

    During the presidential elections my son wanted me to vote for Barack Obama “because he looks like me”. It’s everywhere and yes you can see it and no you can’t pretend otherwise and no it’s not a problem you DO see it. No need to be ashamed.

  2. I am excited to hear how your workshop goes. I am sure you will give a fantastic presentation! My son’s preschool teacher is reading a story and talking about MLK Jr. this coming week. My son is one of two beautiful brown kids in the class. She politely asked me if it was okay if she talked about MLK Jr. Day because this is the first time she has had black kids in her class. I said yes, please do speak of his good work and I hope that this can be a positive experience for my child and his friends. We have always talked about race in our home and love the book, “Martin’s Big Words” to talk about MLK Jr. I am glad she and I can have an open dialogue about race.

    • Good start over there! It is all these little conversations that add up. I brought an entire library to my son’s preschool–and eventually discovered that he was seeing as many brown skinned characters at story time as not.

  3. Tracy–it was cancelled because of snow. It is rescheduled for three weeks from now. I have also been asked to run it for another group in Augusta in March. I am doing a practice run in the next few weeks in my building. I’ll write about it when it happens! Thanks for checking in.

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