"It's not racism, just preference "

"People prefer people who are like them." That is the gist of a lot of comments beneath a YouTube video I found after reading an article called Two Little White Girls Crying After Receiving Black Dolls Is Hardly Funny. I thought it would be obvious why something is wrong with the video, which shows two young girls receiving a black baby doll each, followed by one crying and the mother laughing. Yet, some people were "confused" and "appalled" that on lookers labeled the video racist. Now I feel the need to explain the not-so-fine line they seem to be missing.

I had dolls as a kid, but not many because I don't like dolls, so I'm going to substitute books for dolls in this discussion to illustrate my point. As a child I was a fan of many book series, including (but not limited to) The Magic Attic Club, American Girl, and The Babysitters Club. The Magic Attic Club was my favorite; it followed the adventures of 4 (later 5) girls who upon trying on clothes from an old trunk in "the magic attic" would be teleported to a different time or location. Three of the girls were White (a blonde named Alison, a redhead named Megan, and a brunette named Heather), the fourth was a Black girl named Keisha, and the fifth girl was a Native American named Rose. The first book in the series and one other book (which introduced Rose) features all the girls, but the others focus on a single girl taking an adventure.

Preference: Yes, when I began the series, I started with the books featuring Keisha, as I imagine little blonde girls may have started with Alison.  I was happy to see someone who looked like me on the cover (particularly since you don't often see people of color on the cover of books), and I was excited to read her adventures. However, I have read all of the books. After completing Keisha's first arc of stories, I began reading the others (similarly I've read more than the Addy series from American Girl). As I type, 3 stories stand out to me: one features Megan, one Keisha, and the other Rose. In the end my favorite story from the series is not a Keisha story. Keisha may have brought me to the story (I can't remember if I started with book one or one of her stories), but the story itself is what kept me and regardless of skin color, I became engrossed in the other characters' stories as well.

Racism: My family members knew I loved to read, and at that age, they knew what I loved to read. Come my birthday, Christmas, or just because, you can bet they'd bring me a book from this series. Sometimes the book featured Keisha, sometimes it didn't. They picked up one that sounded like something I'd like and didn't already have, wrap it up, and hand it to me just like the girls in the video. I never reacted that way upon receive a book about a White character. I didn't drop the book on the ground and throw it as though it was worthless or burst into tears. I said thank you, went to my reading chair, and started reading. The only time I was disappointed was when I specifically asked for a particular title and received a different one. This wasn't race or even character based but story based—if I asked for Heather Takes the Reins and received Heather at the Barre that was disappointing; randomly receiving Princess Megan (as opposed to a book about Keisha) was still a treat. Nonetheless, had I acted the way the child in the video did, my mother would not have laughed. You can bet she would have lit into me about my ungrateful-self, demand I thank the gift giver, and sternly confirm that it might be the last gift my ungrateful-self ever got.

What makes the video disgusting and racist is not that the little girl prefers White dolls, but the dramatic reaction they have followed by the mother condoning and laughing—LAUGHING!—at their reaction. She prompts them with "you don't like it" as though she knew they wouldn't like the dolls. My reaction would have been to ask why they didn't like the doll. Or to explain that there was no difference between the White doll and the Black one (aside from appearance)—both can be named and played with in exactly the same fashion, you can play dress up with the doll no matter the color, and whatever personality you give it, that is who the doll becomes. Not only is the mother showing her daughters that she thinks their disdain for a Black doll is funny, she's letting them behave like a brat! If I had acted like that upon receiving a gift, I would never have gotten another one from my mom again.

While I'm sure those commenters are actually racist and have no desire to understand why people called the video racist (perhaps they even know and simply want to defend the video), I hope someone can take something from this.

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