After sharing her story on the Facebook page Love What Matters, one mom’s frustrating experience with a toy store cashier is now going viral for one powerful reason.
The mom, Brandi Benner, had recently swung by the store to reward her daughter Sophia for a pretty big potty training milestone. (“[My husband] Nick and I told Sophia that after one whole month of going poop on the potty, she could pick out a special prize at Target,” she shared.)
And while Sophia could have chose any toy she wanted, she zeroed in on a beautiful doll in a doctor’s costume, complete with white coat and an adorable stethoscope (probably inspired by her “obsession with Doc McStuffins,” her mom later shared). But once they were on the checkout line, the little girl got a series of bizarre questions from a white cashier who eyed the black doll she chose: Was she going to a birthday party? Was this doll for a friend? And finally, there was this: “Are you sure this is the doll you want, honey?”
When Sophia gave the lady an enthusiastic “Yes!” that’s when the cashier’s real thoughts came out. No longer diluted.
“But she doesn’t look like you,” she said to little Sophia.”We have lots of other dolls that look more like you.”
It was at this point that Benner felt her anger rise, she later wrote on Facebook. But before she could even step in, Sophia said matter-of-factly that she did resemble her doll in the most important way: “She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor,” Sophia told the cashier.
Benner tells Babble that Sophia’s always reached for dark-skinned dolls and her parenting style has always encouraged it. But even if her daughter wasn’t making these choices on her own, Benner believes that parents should “diversify” their kids toys for them. “Whether it’s Barbies or G.I.Joes, our children’s toys should reflect the world around them,” she says.
Since Sophia’s experience has gone viral, Benner’s received a lot of comments about the beauty of “colorblindness.”
But “I hate that term,” she tells us. Benner explains that “colorblindness” is not what her post is about. “I want my daughter to see all the colors in the world and love them all the same,” she says.
The truth is, we’re still living in a world where some of us believe that there are strict rules about skin color — even when it comes to toys. But we should listen to our kids and heed the advice of moms like Benner. Her daughter’s responses to that cashier could really teach us adults a lot about what matters. Sophia didn’t see any barriers standing in the way of her connecting with this sweet little doctor doll; but she did see why the doll was so beautiful and smart and fun to play with.
Research on race and children shows us that representation matters. Children of color thrive when they have toys and positive role models who that look like they do. Kids need to see themselves reflected out in the world. And that just doesn’t happen if our toy stores only offer a sea full of light-skinned iconic dolls and figurines, that don’t in any way reflect our own diversity.
Luckily, we’re finally starting to make some headway, as more toy companies are starting to get on board. And when it comes to dolls, our kids have far more to choose from than just that same light-skinned, blonde-haired Barbie we once did. Now she’s got curves! And different hair styles! And even takes on new — and bold — professions! And that’s simply wonderful. But it also doesn’t mean that only the dark-skinned girls can now pick the dark-skinned dolls; or the blonde-haired girls can only pick the blonde-haired dolls. Now that there are more options out there, we need to actually let our kids choose them.
We know implicit racial bias starts early. And we need to keep our white children from developing it the same way that we need to keep our children of color from receiving it.
Sophia’s preference shows all of us that kids connect beyond skin color — they identify with deeper and richer similarities. Sophia picked up on the heart of it when she said, “I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl.”
Yes, Sophia, you are. Just beautiful.