Two white girls were given black dolls and reacted oppositely. Here's why.

​​You may have seen a video going around Facebook last week that was pretty much the worst.

In the video, two adorable, young white kids open their Christmas presents from their aunt and what sounds like their uncle. The gifts are black baby dolls. The woman recording, presumably their mom, asks the girls if they like the dolls, and the older daughter offers a half smile and mutters, "Uh huh." 

Someone in the background laughs, and the mom then asks the younger daughter if she likes the doll. The young girl begins to cry and shakes her head no — as the background laughter continues and gets louder. 


"What's wrong?!" the mom asks in a high-pitched voice, and the younger daughter responds by throwing the doll, still in its box, while wailing. 

That awful 41 seconds reminded me of a rather famous Denis Leary quote.

As terrible as that video — and what those young girls are being taught — is, something good came from it in the form of an even shorter video with a very powerful message that quickly went viral. It came from a mom who knows exactly what Denis Leary meant, a mom who's raising actively anti-racist kids. 

Katie Nachman, who's almost finished with her master's in social work and who is a mom of three (ages 4, 7, and 8), saw the video and was bothered because it's exactly the opposite of the way she parents her kids.

Photo provided by Katie Nachman, used with permission.

She was so bothered, in fact, that she went upstairs immediately after watching it and asked her girls, who'd already gotten into bed and were getting ready to go to sleep, a few questions about the black dolls they received for Christmas.

"I was pretty shocked and appalled because it seemed very clear to me that the parents and the aunt and possibly uncle were playing some sick, twisted joke on these kids, and the fact that the joke was racially based was beyond my comprehension," she said in a phone interview. "I thought, you know, I’m horrified enough about it as a white woman. How would a person of color feel, watching this video and seeing a girl throw a baby doll down on the floor in disgust?"

Here's the video and the commentary Katie uploaded to Facebook.

(Be sure to expand the post to read her full message. It's important.)

​As a parent, Katie is doing everything she can to raise kids who will grow into adults who are not only loving and accepting of everyone, but who take an active role in fighting racism — even though it doesn't directly affect them.

Katie buys her kids dolls of all colors and ethnicities. She knows that's not going to end racism; she's not naive, and besides, people reminder her all the time that it won't. But having diverse dolls and toys for her kids is just a small part of what she's doing.

Photo via iStock.

"I feel like any small step in the direction toward racial justice is worthwhile," she told Upworthy. "Dolls represent people, and kids use dolls as learning tools ... so if they have dolls who are different races and they're treating them like their friends or their babies — taking care of them and playing with them, loving them — I think it sets a precedent for how they're going to treat people of other races throughout their lives." 

She talks to her kids often and honestly. One day, that talk centered around protesters who were marching because a young black boy was killed by police in her town. Her then-6-year-old son thought it was a parade, and she explained in child-appropriate terms what a protest was, why people were having one, and how racial bias disproportionately affects people of color. She talks about slavery, white privilege, and what her kids can do to make the world a better place. 

She never expected her video to go viral — who does?! But Katie did want to share a message with her circle of friends when she uploaded it. (It's a huge bonus that the message is being spread far and wide.)

Katie's incredibly adorable kids! Photo provided by her, used with permission.

She said that so many good, kind white parents teach their kids to love everyone and that everyone is beautiful and valuable, but "what I really wanted people to know is that everyone is not equal in this country. Just because it's 2016 does not mean racism does not exist."

"Being colorblind is not OK. You're your kids' first teacher. You need to set the example for them."

"Just because slavery was a long time ago and the civil rights movement was a long time ago doesn't mean people have equal access to opportunity in this country. I wanted people to know that being colorblind is not OK and that you really need to be active in teaching your kids. You're their first teacher, you're the person they look up to the most. You need to set the example for them." 

While the adults in the original video may have been blatantly awful, a lot of good white parents try to do something they feel is better — but it turns out it's still very damaging.

The outdated notion of colorblindness centers around the idea that it's best to treat people as equals and to totally ignore difference in race and ethnicity. It may feel good for white folks to subscribe to that belief, but in reality, anyone who's not visually impaired does see color, kids included. 

And bias — whether implicit or explicit — happens as a result of the combination of our seeing color and the subtle message we absorb from media and the people around us. When those of us who have the power to do something about racism and racial bias pretend it doesn't exist, we're only allowing it to continue and even worsen. 

When parents raise their kids to be colorblind, they're well-intentioned and they're certainly not racist. I get it. I used to consider myself colorblind, and I may have done the same if I hadn't adopted two children of color and gotten an eye-opening front-row seat to incredible amount of bias and racism people of color face every single day. 

But it turns out that subscribing to and teaching the colorblind belief only perpetuates the problems those very same parents want to end. And when you know better, you do better. We know better now. We have to do better, and we can follow Katie's lead and make the world a better place for all of our kids.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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