It all started with a jarring CNN study that uncovered racial attitudes young Black girls had toward white dolls.
Dr. Lisa Williams, then an esteemed college professor, was struck by how crucial conversations regarding race and representation are to children.
The findings of the study revealed that even though decades had passed, Black children still associated lighter skin tones with “nice” or “good” and associated dark skin tones with “mean or “bad.”
This drove her to create The Fresh Doll Collection, multiple doll lines designed to amplify conversation in the home and provide children of all ethnicities and gender identities with a positive visual representation of themselves.
“I understood how crucial early images of representation are to children, particularly in the Black community, and wanted to do something that would shift their self-image from what was being perpetuated through mainstream media,” Dr. Williams said.
She was onto something.
Research published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General® in August of last year uncovered that children notice race several years before adults want to talk about it. The study also revealed that children’s conceptualization of racial nuances like colorism settles in even earlier than age 5.
Researchers at Northwestern University sought to provide more insight into this issue in a 2019 study with 4- and 5-year-olds and exposed how early racial bias and internalized low self-images begin in children.