I’ll make this very brief. I was heading downtown on the subway today and sitting right across from me was a little Asian girl about five years old who was clearly in love with her new plaything, a beautiful African-American doll with big bright eyes and huge smile. And, as I watched her adjust the dolly’s dress and pull up her tiny socks, I had the happy casual thought that, thanks to that little doll, here was a child who would never be prejudiced against people of color .
And, then, it hit me like a slap of angel wings! Of course! Dolly of Another Color!
But let me digress: over the course of the past few months, I think we have all learned something about our country, our local areas and even ourselves when it comes to racial prejudice. When the Supreme Court came out with the Shelby decision a few years back (that basically eviscerated the Voting Rights Act) they said the Act was no longer needed since racism, by and large, no longer existed in America; that people of color need not worry any more about being disenfranchised. Of course, recent events have made it very clear to all of us that those five foolish men got it horribly wrong. Racism is not only alive and well in this country, it’s truly much worse than we thought.
If Donald J. Trump’s election has done nothing else, it has allowed this subterranean truth to rise to the surface and expose the underbelly of racial attitudes in our country, and it is not a pretty sight. But you can’t fix a problem until you know you have one, so it can only be to the good, however ugly, that this election has shown truth to power, has brought this great infection of our national body politic to a place where, at least, it can be treated and, some day with a great deal of effort and love, cured for all time.
Examples are rife, if you need them, but apocryphal is the tale of two Clay, WV women, both government officials (including the mayor), who, after the election, found themselves in hot water for calling Michelle Obama an “Ape in heels.” I suppose they suddenly felt empowered, now that their man had won. The mayor, who had retweeted the comment with the additional note, “You made my day!,” said later in her apology: “Those who know me know that I’m not of any way racist,” and the astonishing thing is that I have no doubt that she really believed what she said!
“O wad some Pow’r the Giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!” – Rob’t. Burns
You see, one of the greatest difficulties in confronting our racism arises from our inability to even see and gauge our own attitudes because we came by them as naturally as breathing from the time we were born, and like any other resemblance we may have to our families, they are practically invisible to us. As Rogers and Hammerstein so perfectly said in South Pacific:
“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”
“Okay,” I can hear you say, “But what can I do about that? I’m not the one who’s got the problem, and even if I were, this is a bigger issue than any one of us can confront. At least, not without creating more heat than light!”
Well, that’s where #dollyofanothercolor comes in.
The beauty of this idea is that it accomplishes two very important – hugely important – things, but first, my proposal: That we all do whatever we can to encourage everyone we can to make sure that every young child we know is given a dolly of another color this year for the holidays. This could include action figures for boys as well as dolls for girls (or vice-versa if you object to gender-specificity in toy giving), but the important thing is to help the child grow to have affection for the toy, and by extension, to inoculate him or her from a lifetime of disrespect for ‘the other.’
That’s the most obvious reason to participate in this push, but there is another, more subtle beauty to this proposal, it seems to me, and it goes right to the problem of our inability to gauge our own degree of prejudice. If you say to your sister you’re thinking about giving her child a dolly of another color, she will learn, from her own reaction, just where she stands on the issue of prejudice, and you will, too. How would you feel if it happened to you? What degree of prejudicial feeling do you have buried deep within that might surface? Surely this is something we all need to learn in these days if we are ever to have any chance of truly cleaning out the rot of racism that is apparently marbled throughout the land.
So, I’m going to do what I can to create a meme: #dollyofanothercolor to try to move this idea into the mainstream. It may not work, but I can try, and I’ll know this campaign is a success when I read a news item someday close to Christmas that the toy companies are finding it difficult to meet the demand for dolls of color because so many of their white customers have been demanding them. It’s a tiny thing. It’s tangible. It’s inexpensive. It’s therapeutic. And anyone can do it!
To help me move this needle, I’m reaching out to Dolly Parton and some other Dollys I know in hopes of making a Youtube or two, and I invite you – no, urge you – to join me in this effort by whatever means, including sharing this post or writing your own. We have to address racism where it starts, and for almost everyone, it starts in the nursery, so that’s where we have to go.
Thanks for listening. Know hope. Sending with Love. #dollyofanothercolor
© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved.