I think I’m a few months behind in blogging about this, but I hadn’t seen this film until a friend emailed me a news clip about it today. “A Girl Like Me,” by teen filmmaker Kiri Davis, explores how race and racism affect the self-esteem and self-image of young Black women and even younger Black children. (The link brings you to the film’s page on the Media That Matters Film Festival site, where you can watch the film in its entirety.) The young women who are interviewed are insightful and articulate about their experiences around what is perceived as beautiful; many talk about straight or relaxed hair, lighter skin, and body types that are more typically white than Black.
Davis goes on to replicate the doll experiments conducted by Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark in the 1940s, which were presented as part of the Brown vs. Board of Ed Supreme Court decision. In the experiment, Black children were asked to choose which of two nearly identical dolls, one Black and one white, they preferred. The majority of the Black children in those experiments chose the white doll.
Davis reproduced the experiment with young Black children living in NYC; after six decades, the results are much the same. At one point, Davis asks a young girl which doll is the good doll, and the girl holds up the white doll. She asks which one is the bad doll, and the girl indicates the Black doll. Then, Davis asks the girl which doll looks like her. The girl looks to the white doll first, but then turns back to the Black one and slowly pushes it forward.
So admittedly I’m an easy crier. But yes, this made me cry. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s infuriating, that young Black (and Brown, I’m sure) children continue to grow up in a world that makes them think that people who look like them are bad and people who look like their oppressors are good. Not that I didn’t know this is what our society is still about, but this film brings it home in a skilled and poignant way.
Kudos to Kiri Davis for making a powerful, brilliant film. In her bio, Kiri says that she wants to continue to be a filmmaker; I certainly hope she does so, because I can’t wait to see what more she accomplishes.