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Black Dolls or White Dolls?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My brother and sister-in-law just had their second child, a lovely baby girl.

Black Dolls or White Dolls?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My brother and sister-in-law just had their second child, a lovely baby girl. She is barely a week old but we are all already talking about whose eyes she has, whose hair, whose nose. I already dream about doing girlie things with her - trying out nail polish, braiding her hair, dressing her up in frilly dresses. And buying her dolls.

My sister-in-law and I were on that subject when she asked what kind of barbies I would get my niece. Black barbies, I said. My sister-in-law laughed in the indulgent way she laughs when I bring up subjects like African feminism and asked, "white dolls or black dolls, does it matter?"

Long after that conversation, I thought about it and I realized that this is one (rare) instance where I do not have an unequivocal opinion.

I grew up with white dolls, as my sister-in-law pointed out to me. Although that was less a political statement on my mother's part as it was because the Nsukka and Enugu markets and shops my mother went to in the eighties had only white dolls.

I loved those dolls, especially the ones that burped. And I turned out fine. I do not think any less of my skin color or ethnicity because I did not have dolls of the same skin color. I did not grow up wishing I had green eyes just because my dolls did.

On the other hand, it is different here, different for us Nigerians in Diaspora. It is different because children here do not grow up in the same environment or with the same unquestioning acceptance of who they are. And because of this, I like to think that is important that children see images that look like them so they do not unconsciously consider themselves freaks of nature. Or so they do not unconsciously attach more value to images that do not look like them but happen to be around them always.

I still don't have an unequivocal opinion. I thought about it often, I recalled my early creative writing, how most of my characters were blond and blue-eyed because all the books I read early in life, starting with 'Kathy and Mark' in kindergarten, had blond, blue-eyed people. Yet, today, I write about mostly black characters in my fiction. I know that I will definitely buy black dolls for my niece and maybe white ones. When she's older, I'll ask her to choose which she prefers. And I am not so sure how comfortable I will be if she prefers white dolls.

Of course dolls are insignificant in the grand scale of things. They're just dolls. But they are symbols after all. And in place of dolls, it could be anything else.

So what would YOU buy your daughter or niece or sister? And above all else, does it matter?


I do not think it matters at all what colour we buy for our ...(It "dont" matter )
amanda you still look pretty thanks to akata so how will I ...(obi gidis )
I am a Native American woman with dark skin, black hair and ...(N-d-N-Momma )
The thing I see about it, is that back in the day when most ...(Funmilayo )
i think it matters a whole lot, our little girls need to kno...(sapphire )
Amanda,Ngozi! Well dont u tink itz funny dat some one who...(Naija Boy )
Naija Boy, a beg leave Amanda Ngozi alone man, sometiems it'...(Funmilayo )
Black dolls ...(okwy )
Funmi! Well, U dont see it do U! Let me break it down! ...(naija )
Funmi! Well, U dont see it do U! Let me break it down! ...(naija )
Funmi! Well, U dont see it do U! Let me break it down! ...(Naija Boy )
I find the post by Naija man completely ridiculous. He might...(Ridiculous)
I don,t think it really matters a doll is a unless you attac...(naijababe)
Hey! Sentimental? Naw! No room 4 dat! Face da facts! (m...(naijaboy)
Naija Boy, I think you have to read the article again. Ama...(Mentor)
Mentor! U'll notice she waz leaning towards White!!!...(Naijaboy!)
Men...Naija boy, I think you don take style confuse yaself....(Funmilayo)
Fumni! Am not confused! U Read it again and u will see it ...(Naijaboy)
Your point about Africans living here and therefore having a...(Uzor Chicago)
hey readers, i like how people participate on these sites. i...(veekee)
As a Black american back to her roots in Nigeria these past...(Sister Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade)
amanda you are too still remain the same....(olumide fafore)
amanda you are too still remain the same....(olumide fafore)
Amanda, thanks for bringing this up. I strongly believe that...(Miss Okara)
well am not a anything u think........u child atti...(
Babies are not born with the thoughts of race and prejudice....(Guest: )
Whats in the color of a doll...afterall ,we are becoming uni...(doc)
it does not really matter.just get her any,and hope she like...(Guest: )
amanda, i dont think you should burden yourself with this wh...(Guest: )
I Think you should follow your heart and stick to your guns!...(Guest: )
the black but never let her choose cause it`s kinda racisim...(Guest: )
yisa y 419 dey fear you?u be okafor o? advance fee fraud i...(Guest: )
Yeye, thank you for your comment, i am still waiting for the...(Guest: )
Bravo Amanda !!! Nice piece. You always go where people are ...(Guest: )
Its too bad that there is no difference between Black and ...(Guest: )
Black dolls. I wish i had a choice growing up. In a societ...(miprincess)
Obiora i am indeed dissapointed that u support 419. how can ...(Guest: )
I think it is important for young Black girls to have dolls ...(Guest: )
Why on God's earth do you wish to inflict barbie dolls of an...(Guest: )
Where is sister we are missing you ooooo!...(Guest: )
Hmm A toy is a toy abi a doll is a doll. It is there to b...(iyabo)
Hmm A toy is a toy abi a doll is a doll. It is there to b...(iyabo)

Features: Amanda's Thoughts
On Short Sleeves and the Church
On the Dispossessed
On Mangoes and Cashews
Black Dolls or White Dolls?
The African Student Experience


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