I am a scrawny, freckle-faced white girl with blue eyes and dark hair–always have been. I must have been quite a sight to see in 1977 carrying around two dark-skinned dolls. Everywhere I went, they were in my arms. I loved them. I thought they were the most beautiful dolls I’d ever laid eyes upon, and they were mine! We were quite poor in those years, my grandparents watching us during the days and nights while my single-mom worked two jobs. My black-skinned, curly-haired, negro plastic daughters were my pride and joy, so beautiful, so cute. I was one proud momma!
My Poppo (grandpa) would joke and tell me to get those black babies outta here, always with a smile, but I remember wondering why he made comments. Were these babies not the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen? I loved my Poppo. I was his girl. The memories leave me pondering.
I wonder what being the proud momma of two black babies gave to me. I wonder what depth of love and acceptance my mom imparted by buying me those lovely dolls in 1977. I know that the household she grew up in was culturally segregated as were most households in that era. I know that the comments my Poppo made were based in underlying lack of acceptance of colored skin, even if they were good-natured. I know that the comments are attached to the love I had for those babies, and that I felt defensive and curious that someone would want me to ‘get them outta here.’ If not for his comments, I may not even have known those babies were any different from me. Just more beautiful.
I remember feeling especially proud in the grocery store, or at a Village Inn table. I hoped other people saw my beautiful babies, and noticed that they were more beautiful than all the other dollies in the arms of other little girls.
Are those babies the reason I think that black skin is the most beautiful skin on the planet? Although I see racism’s presence in our culture, and don’t doubt its existence, even when it is subtle, I feel as surprised and dumbfounded about it as I did when I was six years old. Thank you, mom, for expanding my world when I was so little, offering the opportunity to love, and to ponder this issue from an innocent and pure state of mind for a lifetime.