June 08, 2022
“Anti-racist” professor and author Ibram X. Kendi in his Tuesday essay for the Atlantic wondered if his daughter inhaled the “smog” of “white superiority” amid her attachment to a white doll at daycare.
What are the details?
Kendi wrote that in the summer of 2017, he and his partner, Sadiqa, and their 1-year-old daughter, Imani, moved to Washington, D.C. During that time, Imani grew attached to a white doll with blue eyes and began throwing fits when she had to put it down, Kendi’s essay states.
He added that he and his partner “wondered if our black child’s attachment to a white doll could mean she had already breathed in what the psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum has called the ‘smog’ of white superiority.”
Kendi detailed the history of dolls’ skin color, including a recent study concluding that white children “displayed a high rate of ‘white bias,‘ identifying lighter skin tones with positive attributes and darker hues with negative ones.” He added that black children also displayed white bias, but far less than white children; the study’s author said that’s because “black parents actively work to protect their children from bias by ‘reframing messages that children get from society’ about racial preference.” White parents “don’t have to engage in that level of parenting,” the study’s author found.
“Regardless of your race, it’s never too early to consider the messages a child is receiving from the world around them. Color blindness is not an option,” Kendi added in his piece. “Research has demonstrated that even at 1 year old, our children notice different skin colors. We can impress upon children the equality of dark and light colors.”
He also wrote that “we can use dolls to acknowledge difference in skin color but dismiss the racist notions that the darker, the worse. A diverse assortment of toys in general can ‘open dialogue around prejudice and enable discussion and empathy,’ the psychologist Sian Jones has written. ‘If such toys are not there, the opportunity for this discussion is lost.’”
At home, Imani had a wide array of diverse toys. But Sadiqa and I hadn’t thought about their presence at Imani’s day care.
‘Anger overtook me’
After picking up his daughter at daycare later on, Kendi wrote that he “rummaged through” toy chests there “and did not come across a single doll that looked Asian, Native, latino, middle eastern, or black. Every single doll I saw looked white.”
He added that “anger overtook me. Not at the day care’s owner — at myself. Imani had been going here for several weeks, and not once did I examine the toy chests.”
Kendi concluded that his daughter “did not choose to play with the white doll over dolls of color” but simply didn’t have “another option. After all these years, how many children still don’t have another option in their toy chests, libraries, or schools? What does the overrepresentation of white dolls tell children about who their caregivers think is important?”
Here’s a sampling of other ways Kendi has been making headlines:
- In April, he said Republicans are the “party of white supremacy.”
- An investigation found that the University of Virginia paid Kendi $32,500 for a one-hour lecture on racial equity in April 2021. Yet in a 2019 interview to promote his book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” Kendi said it’s impossible for capitalism and antiracism to coexist.
- In October 2021, Kendi deleted a tweet on findings that “more than a third of white students lied about their race on college applications, and about half of these applicants lied about being Native American. More than three-fourths of these students who lied about their race were accepted.” He was roundly mocked for pointing out, more or less, that non-whites have a skin-color advantage in the college application process.
- In November 2020, he argued that the term “legal vote” is just as “racist” as “welfare queen,” “super predator,” and “personal responsibility.”
- In September 2020, he suggested that then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett adopted two Haitian children to shield herself from accusations of racism.