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Modern doll tests show no social progression

Black and White children view themselves differently because of how media portrays the two of them. | Katie Santana/ The Cougar

How people view themselves and how they view other people is fundamentally subjective. But the addition of race relations, coupled with stereotypes and systemic portrayals, blurs the lines of subjectivity and objectivity.

In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark created the “doll test” that has since been modernized — a psychological test for children based on their self-esteem. Children from different racial backgrounds are shown different colored dolls ranging from pale to dark skin.

Questions are asked like “which one is smart,” “which one is bad,” “which one is ugly,” along with their reciprocals. Of all the questions, the dolls that were darker were associated with the negative answers and the lighter dolls with the positive.

The last questions were which of the dolls looks most like that particular child. The black children perceived themselves in a negative light. Most parents aren’t teaching their children to hate themselves, and yet, they see themselves poorly.

Not only is this shown from black children, but their white peers as well. The test is over 70 years old, but this is still the current state in perception of race. The popular term “I don’t see color,” is both false and more sophisticated.

An adult version of the doll test could be seen in New York City’s controversial stop and frisk practice back in 2011.  Of the 23 percent of black population that makes up NYC, they account for 53 percent of stopping and frisking in 2011. In Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s predominately black neighborhoods, 76 percent in 2015, had 93 out of 100 black residents have been stopped and frisked in 2009. From the 2015 black Brownsville population, over 65,000, that would mean over 61,000 residents have been stopped and frisked.

Brock Turner raped an unconscious girl last year and received only six months of county jail because it’d have a “severe impact” on him. Cory Batey, a black man also charged with rape, received 15 years in state prison.

Blacks are incarcerated over five times than whites are. This is in America where blacks only comprise 13 percent of the population. The prisons system shows how people are viewed on the largest scale, being judged in the justice system.

When it comes to the self-esteem of black children, the current version of the doll test is through lack and miss-representation in the media and the desire of specific beauty standards that are not Afrocentric.

Going back as far as films like D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” black film archetypes like Jezebels and modern token black characters in media are the antagonists — they’re portrayed as murderers or drug dealers.

In news media, there is a hyper-representation of black people being criminal and extracting any type of innocence away from the story even if they are the victim. With the now infamous “super-predator” term, it has allowed for inter community negative perceptions.

The doll test has shown how the world perceives each other and how that affects one another, 70 years later and there has been no social progression no matter how post-racial we claim to be.

Opinion editor Dana C. Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected].

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