In one of the video campaigns, a variety of Mexican children participate in tests comparing two dolls, one white and the other black. The children are asked which doll is pretty, ugly, good, bad, or nice; then they are asked to explain their answers. They consistently identify the black doll as ugly, bad and mean. While increasing awareness of racism is an important social goal, using the Doll Test in an awareness campaign is not a responsible, or necessarily helpful, way to achieve that goal.
In the U.S. during the Civil Rights era, the Doll Test did provide evidence of the need to end legalized racial segregation. Since then, the Doll Test has been replicated, but scientists have long debated even what can be measured by or learned from the test. For example, test results are sometimes said to imply that assuming the black doll is bad indicates that a child of color has a negative self-image, and that it indicates a white child projects negative associations onto people. But Dr. Robin Bernstein, a professor at Harvard University, argued that the Doll Test reveals less about the child and is more a measure of community and media messages about cultural expectations related to black and darker skin people.
If we cannot even agree on what the test reveals about racism, how can it be responsible to use it as a tool to make people aware?
Moreover, it is irresponsible to use the Doll Test as an advertisement to increase awareness of racism because the advertisement becomes a sort of self-perpetuating negative message that says to the viewer: it’s sad, but true. Children are in a unique position to shed negative ways of thinking in favor of more inclusive and equitable approaches.
A preferable campaign would highlight positive messages and images to counteract racist attitudes in society. When bombarded with positive messages in entertainment and other media, it becomes increasingly difficult to harbor negative attitudes. People are allowed to witness good in all shades of color.
View the original video below.