The Doll Experiment And Some Quick Reminders That You’re A Racist

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May 30, 2016 by Liberty


This happens to be one of those subjects that I’m bound to get accused of racism for. It doesn’t matter how sensitively I approach my wording, I’m going to end up offending someone stupid. So… in light of that fact, I’m going to avoid sensitivity completely and focus more on directly offending anyone without a sense of humor.



In the 1950’s the supreme court was debating about segregation in school. Kenneth and Mamie Clark were two psychologists who, to their credit, were married and still didn’t mind working together, were involved. In some way I imagine that absolves them of some of the responsibility for their experiments being so mediocre in methodology (“Whatever hunny… Methodology Smethodology. It’s not worth arguing about…”) Someone less forgiving than me might accuse them of pandering their experiments for a certain result.


Racial segregation was widespread in the Southern States at this time. While I may love me some segregation, it’s nice to segregate yourself from idiots and political types, I can’t say I’m all that big a fan of the racial kind (particularly when it’s legally required.) It’s a tad arbitrary for my tastes. Brown versus Board of Education was revisiting the old idea of “separate but equal.”


As much as I hate to spoil the ending to a story, this story ends with racial segregation being declared “unconstitutional,” which is kind of like the manager at a fast food restaurant telling an employee peeing in the lemonade is “not outlined in the job description.” It’s completely missing the point.


Anyway… it’s worth starting in the middle… (remember folks, there is no beginning when it comes to a historical story… unless you’re the religious type. So I’m just arbitrarily picking a moment to pick up on the story.)


The Doll Experiments



For those uninitiated into the wonders of the doll experiment: The doll experiment was originally begun by the folks I’d mentioned in the story earlier. Their experiment consisted of a quick survey of 3 to 7 year olds categorized as light, medium, or dark. These children were offered up the option of 2 different dolls to play with. One of the dolls was a white blonde. One of the dolls was black with black hair.



The survey consisted of a series of questions like, “which doll do you want to play with?” and “which doll is prettier?”  The two questions that are typically discussed (and cut and pasted right next to each other for a real emotional left and right,) are the following.


“Which doll is bad?”


Then… to smack you one more time…


“Which doll looks like you?”


According to someone of limited intelligence, this experiment is expected to produce results that are rather simple. Black folks should like black folks more. White folks should like white folks more. And the medium skinned might fall somewhere in between. According to most people, that would represent “self-esteem.”


Of course, when you put some thought into it, it would never be that simple but as usual, the media loves to overly simplify the story into racism. As a bit of a cliffhanger, they also kept track of the difference between children in segregated schools and non-segregated schools. I’ll get to that later.


The results of the experiment boundlessly contradicted that simplistic idea of self-esteem. Whites, along with that idea, answered positively about the white doll. Blacks, on the other other (or otherwise known as, same) hand, pick the white dolls too.



Wait… perhaps we should ask a few questions.


Why The Doll Experiment Is A Waste Of Time


First of all, why are they using dolls if they’re looking to assess a person’s self-esteem? Couldn’t this experiment be just as easily done using people, or personal surveys? “Do you think you’re bad?” This is something to think about. It’s not a major point alone but once you look into the other problems with this experiment, it might help clarify something.


If I were to give you a taste test of two sodas right now, statistically, you’re much more likely to select whichever soda is the sweetest as the best. In your day to day life, you might prefer the other soda but a taste test has the inherent flaws of your basic anatomy. Sweet stuff tastes better when back to back with something less sweet.


Having the option between two dolls to play with doesn’t help narrow down the cause of the children’s preference towards the white doll. Just as taste can have certain intricacies that lead to the relatively sweeter winning out, sight can have preferences.


On a day to day basis, the black child might trust, like, and want to spend time with black children. Given a unmoving piece of plastic changes the situation dramatically.


Many cultures throughout history have held paleness as an attractive quality. While today, it seems to have faded into the background, paleness represented a life out of the sun, which for thousands of years, suggested a high social standing. This idea could have been tested by doing a similar experiment with a dark blue and a light blue skinned doll (or any of another hundred options.) This idea was ignored though.


Then, with any experiment like this, it’s absolutely essential to control for the person asking the questions. Was the person asking the questions to the black children white? Could the children have been trying to please this survey taker by saying whites were prettier? Was the person asking the questions looking for a specific result? Children are highly suggestible so any subtle bias can completely ruin the experiments value.


How the hell does any of this even relate to self-esteem? In one publication they told the story that many black children got visibly upset when they were asked to identify with which doll they resembled. The children got upset because they were being asked to identify with a doll that they said was bad, and less pretty, and all kinds o’ not good.


Freaking out about identifying with a negative does not suggest a lack of self-esteem. It suggests the children didn’t even realize they were talking about themselves the whole time. (That ultimately means THEY WEREN’T!)

Of course, even assuming I’m wrong about this. The limitations of their questions make it impossible to see whether certain positive qualities are more likely to be attributes to the black doll. Asking a narrow and carefully designed set of questions could easily be defining the broad results claimed.

I’ve mentioned this idea before: when an experiment has holes big enough that a dog could drive a truck through it, it probably means it was never meant to be an objective experiment in the first place.


Brown VS Board Of Education


Of course, this experiment doesn’t really matter.


Sure, it’s brought up by liberals in an attempt to sound like they have evidence but it’s virtually irrelevant in today’s world short of its notable impact on the Brown VS Board Of Education case. In many the typical recitation of the history, this experiment is used to help justify the supreme court’s decision. This is where it gets really odd though.


As mentioned earlier, the experimenters kept track of which children went to racially segregated schools and those that did not. Assuming they were looking to prove segregation caused worse results, karmic justice came and gave them a quick kick in the ass. Students in racially segregated schools were more likely to attribute positive attributes to the black dolls. Despite that, this experiment was touted to help prove that racial segregation hurts the “self-esteem” of black students.


Separate was deemed inherently unequal. (With that in mind, it might be worth considering how the grass is always greener on the other side.)


Of course, assuming the acceptance of public schools as a good thing, there are tons of good reasons to keep them integrated. It’s cheaper. It will lead to less divisions in the community. It’s smart for the same reasons it’s smart for public schools not to segregate people of different religions or genders or family backgrounds. In the nature of politics though, the supreme court was capable of finding the absolutely worst evidence possible to justify their decision.


If, in reality, black students had higher self-esteem in segregated school (as unintentionally proved by the experiments logic, or lack thereof,) then perhaps the supreme court’s decision was their own racist blood kicking in. Don’t believe that? Consider this:


Black wealth declined after integration. Businesses that used to thrive because white businesses were kicking out there customers were floundering because blacks starting buying from white businesses.


Community divides may (emphasize may) have been bigger but the individual segregated black community was stronger. Blacks owned more businesses and made more money. They were gaining power through the development of their own wealth. At the rate the communities were strengthening, it was inevitable their own power as a community would make a large impact on politics of the future.


Integration didn’t fully initiate until long after this but it’s safe to say that this was one of the major pushes. But the reality is, even today integration hasn’t really taken place. To this day, the separation can be seen in the statistics, the prisons, the city streets, and everywhere else. The only thing that really changed is that black owned businesses can be undercut by white owned businesses that held the wealth of the advantages in the past.


The Illusion Of Equality


Integration is/was/and always will be a scapegoat.


You might think, if I had his parents, or his money, or his schooling, or his family, or his luck,or his looks,or his intelligence,or his something or another (or hers), I would be in the same situation. And.. that situation is undoubtedly better than my own.


I get the impression that’s never the case though.


First of all, a person isn’t made of any individual aspect of their personality. They’re hardly made by most of their personality traits. Most people can and will be defined by a few distinct characteristics that are hard to see from the outside. As a white dude, I’ve met white dudes that did stupid stuff and ended up in ratty situations. I’ve met black men that seem to be living dramatically better than me.


To assume these successes or failures are related to race are a little bit naive. With all the millions of potential factors that could be involved, it’s just a little silly to assume that skin color is the defining factor.


Perhaps the supreme court was looking for a political boost for their friends. Perhaps they were looking to help big white owned businesses crush the black communities (which could have led to less political power for potential competition.) Perhaps they were trying to subtly expand the powers of the constitution.


Consider the fact that, according to most of the founding fathers, the constitution should have never even allowed this to be a problem of the federal government in the first place.


Perhaps they were just helping to build this illusion of superiority. People cannot control people that have their own protection. Black people had the choice to not be a minority by sticking in their own communities in the past. In fact, they were encouraged to do this (for better or worse.)


Today blacks are pulled out of their communities (at least the successful ones are,) and they’re pulled into a world where they’re a definite minority. The best fruits of the communities are picked and the remaining is left to grow their future without some of their smartest and best. As the communities disintegrate (in more ways than one,) the pricks upstairs get to reassure themselves that black people need them. I wish Malcolm X was here to give them a good intellectual slap in the face…  


Perhaps… they were just trying to do something they thought was good.


That’s all random thoughts though. I think the only thing you can’t attribute to their decision is logic.


Libertarian Money is the occasionally updated but regularly awesomely offense but certainly well-intentioned blog you read this on. Consider following along to read more. Or don’t. I’m too snippy and tired to care.

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