The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

The Rev. Geoffrey ButcherPriest-in-charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

In 1939 Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie conducted an experiment by asking black children to choose between a black doll and a white doll. The dolls were the same except for their skin color. The children were between the ages of six and nine and were asked these questions:

Show me the doll that you like best or that you'd like to play with.

Show me the doll that is the "nice" doll.

Show me the doll that looks "bad".

Give me the doll that looks like a white child.

Give me a doll that looks like a colored child.

Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child.

Give me the doll that looks like you.

Most of the children thought the white doll was nicer and picked the black doll as the bad one. "In 1950 44% said the white doll looked like them! In past tests, however, many children would refuse to pick either doll or just start crying and run away."

This study points up how devastating self-esteem for African Americans can be beginning in childhood. Racial prejudice is learned from childhood and those who are not respected or given equal treatment as others can grow up to think of themselves as inferior. In this study black children saw themselves as inferior to white children. And some white children have learned from their families to think of themselves as superior to black children because they are white. This attitude can even be taught. I was told many years ago by a seminary professor that black people don't have souls in the same sense that white people do. As an ethics professor he taught prejudice.

Color coding our preferences and prejudices can have an impact on our self-esteem and our interaction with others. It can also determine our ability to "respect the dignity of every human being." In the Episcopal Church a candidate for baptism is asked, "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" This vow is taken seriously to help us overcome our prejudices, to respect people of every race and culture, to respect women and men equally, and to respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation. We are all children of God. God's DNA is within each of us in our diversity. In no way should any of our children learn that they are the "bad" child or the "good" child because of the color of their skin or position in society.

It behooves us all to examine our prejudices and the ways we respect our own dignity and that of those who differ from us. As I have written in a previous devotional, I am grateful that my family skin color is black, white, brown, and olive. It is a reminder to me that God's presence is within all of us in rainbow colors.