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.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."