by Taylor Wallace ’21
I once watched this experiment where they put two different dolls in front of a series of young black kids. One of the dolls was white and the other was black. They then proceeded to ask the kids a series of questions in regards to the dolls. When they asked questions like, ‘which doll do you want to play with?’ or ‘which doll is the pretty one?’, the kids chose the white doll. When they asked questions such as ‘which doll is the bad one?’ or ‘which doll is the ugly one?’, the kids said the black doll.
Why is that? The study was conducted to portray the effects that deep-rooted societal racism has on black people. These young children who were barely old enough to comprehend the concept of race, proved how strong the narrative that ‘white is supreme’ truly is. This study illuminated the struggles that black people, specifically black women, face everyday being outsiders to the beauty standards that are so greatly instilled in our society.
We develop our sense of what we consider beauty at a young age, most of the time through what is fed to us through the media. When I was young, I was obsessed with Disney princesses, just like every other little girl (or guy). I loved all the classics like Snow White, Ariel, and Belle. But where was the one that looked like me? For the first seven years of my life, until the Princess and The Frog came out, there wasn’t one. Therefore, for the first few years of my life, many of my images of beauty were white. Lack of representation was a huge contributor to a lack of love for my blackness. When all the people you’re supposed to love and idolize don’t look like you, how are you supposed to love yourself? This is why my mom always encouraged me to play with black barbie dolls. However, I was reluctant at times because I thought the white dolls were ‘better’. They had pretty long hair that flowed down their backs; the hair I wished I had.
My hair has always been my biggest insecurity, and I feel as if other black girls can attest to that too. My hair is what made me different. My hair didn’t blow in the wind or fall down my back like everyone else’s. My hair felt limited. I remember one day in eighth grade my theater group had to present our scene and decided to have matching hairstyles. They decided on a half up-half down hairstyle which required little effort from them. I remembered standing there thinking to myself how there was no way I’d be able to do my hair like that considering the bun I put in my hair in the morning does not move until the end of the day. Times like that are when I thought my life would be easier if I were white. Growing up around mainly white people didn’t make it any better either. Since I wasn’t surrounded by many examples of black hair, it was difficult for me to accept my own.
The journey to loving yourself for all that you are is a long one. It especially isn’t easy in a society where you don’t fit the ‘typical’ beauty standard. If I’ve learned one thing in my seventeen years on this Earth, it’s that you have to create your own sense of beauty. Deeply-rooted racism in our society can make it really easy for people of the black community to feel ‘less than’. Specifically, young kids who group up in a time when there wasn’t a princess or superhero that looked like them. As we continue to progress as a society, and all races are becoming more represented in the media, I hope that young black kids never have to question their own beauty because black is beautiful and no societal standard can discredit that.