Clark Doll Quiz: Black Kids Are Racist

An experiment discovered the effect of culture on racism.

The Clark Doll Test reveals the damaging effects of racial stereotypes and ethnic segregation in America. 

The Clark Doll Test

The study shows us the damage caused by segregation and structural racism in the self-perception of children between six and nine years of age.

Study Background

The Clark Wrist Test was performed by  Dr. Kenneth Clark. The research aimed to expose the stereotypes and self-perception of children linked to their ethnic origin. The conclusions of Clark’s experience were used to confirm that racial segregation in schools could alter young people’s thinking about African-Americans, causing them to internalize certain stereotypes that would give rise to xenophobic beliefs, both in white young people and, surprisingly enough, , in young blacks, causing the latter to also reproduce certain ideas against blacks.

The test is famous for its relevance and the social impact it had, although it has been criticized that the test lacks experimental guarantees. Clark pointed out the contrasts between children who attend slum schools in Washington (DC), and those from integrated schools in New York City.

Clark’s test was decisive in the case of Brown v. The American Board of Education in 1954. The investigation served to persuade the US Supreme Court that “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites had unequal grounds. , and therefore were contrary to the law, which defended the integration and equality of children in school.

Methodology

During the experiment, Clark showed African-American children ages six to nine two rag dolls, one with a white complexion (corresponding to the image of a Caucasian person) and the other with a black complexion (corresponding to a black person. 

The questions were presented in this order:

  • Point out the doll that you like the most or that you would like to play with.
  • Point out the doll that is the “good one”.
  • Point out the doll that looks like the “bad” one.
  • Give me the doll that looks like a white girl.
  • Give me the doll that looks like a colored girl.
  • Give me the doll that looks like a black man.
  • Give me the doll that looks like you.

Results

The experimenters revealed that the black children chose to play more frequently with the white dolls. When the children were asked to draw a human figure with the same skin color, they usually chose a lighter skin tone than their own. The children attributed more positive adjectives to the color “white”, such as pretty and good. On the contrary, the color “black” was associated with the attributes of bad and ugly.

The last question the scholars asked was one of the most controversial. Up to that point, most black children had identified the black doll as “the bad one.” Among the participants, 44% indicated that the white doll was the one that most resembled themselves.

The researchers interpreted the results as evidence that black children internalized certain racist prejudices and stereotypes at a young age , caused by discrimination and stigmatization generated by racial segregation.

Criticism of the investigation

The Clark Wrist Test has been criticized for having transcended thanks to the mediatization of its influence in the case of the US Court, the study being pointed out as lacking prior theoretical deepening and control of the variables. 

Critics argue that the study authors (Clark and his wife) committed certain biases of bias when dealing with a marriage of African American ethnic origin, which may have distorted the results to victimize people of color.

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