When Brandi Benner told her 2-year-old daughter Sophia that she could pick out a special prize as a reward for going to the potty, she probably never would have guessed that her little girl would have to defend her doll choice.
“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, of course, picked a new doll. The obsession is real. While we were checking out, the cashier asked Sophia if she was going to a birthday party. We both gave her a blank stare. She then pointed to the doll and asked Sophia if she picked her out for a friend,” she wrote.
Brenner went on to explain to the cashier that the doll—which happened to be a black girl—was a prize for being fully potty-trained. However, the woman appeared confused and asked her daughter, "Are you sure this is the doll you want, honey?"
Sophia finally found her voice and said, "Yes, please!" The cashier replied, "But she doesn't look like you. We have lots of other dolls that look more like you."
Brenner became angry by the cashier’s comments. But before she could respond, Sophia piped up, "Yes, she does. She's a doctor like I'm a doctor. And I'm a pretty girl and she's a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?"
When I first read about Sophia’s brave response, I was appalled that the cashier had the nerve to ask the little girl if she was sure she wanted the black doll. But at the same time, I understand why the woman questioned the toy selection. She's been conditioned by society like many of us.
Some people are still hanging on to those old values like the cashier in the store.
I still remember growing up and being faced with the infamous doll experiment where sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark asked black children about two dolls, one white and one black. The majority—63 percent of them—said they'd rather play with the white doll. Most said the white doll was nicer than the black doll, and 44 percent of the black children said the white doll looked most like them.
Unlike Sophia, I didn’t choose dolls of the opposite race because back then, it really wasn't a choice. The only ones sitting on store shelves at the time were all white, so that's what I got. The lack of diversity wasn't just limited to store shelves. White models, singers and actresses saturated the market, so that's who I saw on TV and in magazines. They were the standard of beauty.
Unfortunately, some people are still hanging on to those old values like the cashier in the store. We obviously still have a long way to go, but we are making progress. Now that more dolls of color are made available, little boys and girls are able to appreciate everyone’s beauty.
Little Sophia reminds us that beauty does come in all colors. We may have different skin tones, but we are more alike that you may think.
For the record, my daughter has dolls that reflect different racial and ethnic backgrounds. And that's the way it should be. We shouldn’t force our children to chose a doll just because it looks like them. And thanks to Sophia, that's a message that was heard around the world.