The Baton Foundation gives Black boys the skills to assess their own levels of self-worth and their own attitudes regarding race and Black culture.

The “doll test” experiment revealed that African American children understand, as early as age 3, that color matters.

The “doll test” studied the effects of segregation on African American preschoolers.

“We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued and white things are valued.”

What We Do… And Why You Should Care

African American psychologists Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark, based a famed experiment upon Mrs. Clark’s Howard University master’s thesis, The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children, to study the effects of segregation on African American preschoolers. The “doll test,” as the experiment came to be known, revealed that African American children understood, as early as age 3, that color mattered, that black is bad, and that white is preferred—good. Although conducted in the 1940s, the doll test played an important role in the success of the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education—the ruling that struck down so-called separate but equal laws in education across the United States.

Seventy years later, in 2010, CNN commissioned a pilot study on race bias in children that was led by child psychologist and University of Chicago professor Margaret Beale Spencer. Dr. Spencer, an expert in the field of child development, sought to replicate, in part, the pioneering work done by Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark. For her project, she worked with a team of three psychologists and tested 133 children from eight schools (four schools in New York City and four in the Atlanta area). The study focused on two age groups: 4 to 5, and 9 to 10.

Overall, the results of this study are disturbing. However, one stands out from the others—it shows that children’s ideas about race do not change much between the ages of 5 and 10. Not only are children effective “readers” of their environments, but also, they are aware of the discomfort adults feel in talking about race. Thus, unless challenged appropriately, what our children learn at an early age about race (and, by extension, ethnicity and culture) will stay with them. In her final analysis, Dr. Spencer summed up her findings this way: “We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued and white things are valued.”

The country we live in, burdened with the debris from its genocidal beginning, its legacy of African enslavement, and its abhorrent racism and unfairness, infects and affects the psychological, emotional, and cultural well-being of our children from a very early age.

Not surprisingly, these studies show what many of us already know: The country we live in, burdened with the debris from its genocidal beginning, its legacy of African enslavement, and its abhorrent racism and unfairness, infects and affects the psychological, emotional, and cultural well-being of our children from a very early age. The meanings of these studies are serious, and they speak to the many ways our children come to display, as adults, what has been a part of them since their earliest years. And every segment of our culture is struck: education, business, family and personal relationships, finance, recreation/entertainment, politics, and spirituality.

The Baton Foundation exists not only to help stop further development of these damaging influences, but also to give young, Black boys (and their families and communities) the skills to assess their own levels of self-worth and their own attitudes regarding race and Black culture. Each of us has a personal interest—as does our community at large, if it is to remain strong and resilient—in teaching our children the truth—the good, the bad, and the ugly—about our history and culture. As a people, we are a key link in the Universal Human Chain. Our children—and everyone who helps them understand that truth—need to know, understand, and value it.

The Baton Foundation exists to strengthen Black boys and adolescents emotionally, culturally, and intellectually.

© Copyright 2017 The Baton Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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