Intro Unit: The Politics of Education - Enlightenment or Propaganda?

Real or Imaginary? The Psychological Effects of Racism on Blacks and Whites

People To Know
Kenneth & Mamie Phipps Clark, Creators of the famous "Doll Test" 

Video: "Black Doll, White Doll"

The Clark Doll test was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie Clark for her master's degree thesis. The study focused on stereotypes and children's self-perception in relation to their race. The results of Clark's study were used to prove that school segregation was distorting the minds of young black kids, causing them to internalize stereotypes and racism, to the point of making them hate themselves.
In 1954 in Brown v Board of Education, the experiment helped to persuade the American Supreme Court that "separate but equal" schools for blacks and whites were anything but equal in practice and is therefore illegal or against the law. It marked the beginning of the end of Jim Crow.
In the experiment, Clark showed black children with ages ranging from 6 to 9, two dolls, one white and the other black, and asked the following questions in order:
Show me the doll that you like best or that you would like to play with.
Show me the doll that is the 'nice' doll.
Show me the doll that looks 'bad.'
Give me the doll that looks like a white child.
Give me the doll that looks like a colored child.
Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child.
Give me the doll that looks like you.
The researchers found that black children often chose to play with the white dolls more than the black ones. When the kids were asked to fill in a human figure with the color of their own skin, they frequently chose a lighter shade than their actual skin color. The children also gave the color 'white' positive attributes like good and pretty. On the contrary, 'black' was attributed to being bad and ugly.
The last question asked by the researchers was considered the worse since by that point, most of the black children had already identified the black doll as the bad one. Among the subjects, 44% said the white doll looked like them. In past tests however, many of the children refused to pick either doll or just started crying and ran away.

In one study Clark gave the test to 300 children in different parts of the country. He found that black children who went to segregated schools, those separated by race, were more likely to pick the white doll as the nice one.
In the test that he did that became part of Brown v Board he asked 16 black children in 1950 in Clarendon County, South Carolina. Of these 63% said the white doll was the nice one, the one they wanted to play with.
Clark also asked children to colour a picture of themselves. Most chose a shade of brown markedly lighter than themselves.
The results were interpreted as good and reliable evidence that black children had internalized racism caused by being discriminated against and stigmatized by segregation.
In 2005 Kiri Davis repeated the experiment in Harlem as part of her short but excellent film, “A Girl Like Me”. She asked 21 children and 71% told her that the white doll was the nice one. Not a huge sample size, true, but it was still shocking to see how easily many chose the white doll.
In 2009 after Obama became president, “Good Morning America” on ABC did the test. They asked 19 black children from Norfolk, Virginia. It is hard to compare their numbers because they allowed “both” and “neither” as an answer. They also asked the last question first, making it far easier to answer: 88% said the black doll looked most like them.
ABC added a question too: “Which doll is pretty?” The boys said both, but 47% of the black girls said the white doll was the pretty one.
Criticisms of the Study
The study has been criticized for being well known only for the reference in the court case as opposed to the intrinsic and experimental value of the work. Many argue that the study lacks theory and control of variables. According to critics, given that an African American couple was the team who conducted the studies, the desirable outcome of wanting to prove African Americans were negatively stereotyped may have caused some partiality or biases, and may have skewed the results.
Doll Test Results
Racial Identification and Preference in Negro Children  by Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark. This is the article in which the Clarks presented the results of their famed Doll Test.
Discussion Questions
1. What do you think of the results of the doll test?

2. What do you think of the results of the brown/blue-eyed experiment?

3. Would you have guessed that the experiment would have had the results that it did?

4. Before seeing the doll test, how would you have thought the black children would have responded? Why?

5. Why was it important to conduct these experiments with 1st - 3rd graders?

6. Do you think these tests would have similar results today? Why or why not?