Abstract

In Brown v. Board of Education the Supreme Court cited psychologist Kenneth B. Clark for evidence that segregation damaged black children’s self-esteem and hampered their ability to learn. Clark and his wife Mamie had tested black children’s “racial preference” by asking them to choose between black dolls and white dolls, interpreting the choice of white dolls as evidence of damaged self-esteem. After Brown, the Clarks’ studies set the parameters for research on racial identity, self-esteem, and child development—even though they were discredited on methodological and statistical grounds in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Subsequent research showed that the doll tests do not measure self-esteem and, further, that African American children do not have low self-esteem. Nonetheless, social science remains invested in the conception of proper racial identification. The doll tests’ contested history suggests that we need to replace this conception with a model of adaptive, negotiated, and hybrid racial identification.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 299-332
Launched on MUSE
2009-06-12
Open Access
No
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