Last week I went into a popular big box store to buy my six-year-old cousin a birthday gift. With a four-year-old son and a teen daughter, its not often that I venture into the pink aisles. And since I don’t know what’s hot in little-girl-world these days, my default is usually clothes or books. But this day, I decided to live on the edge. After browsing through the selection of jewelry crafts, which I also like to call “torture” (parents don’t buy kids toys that include 8 million beads!) I headed over to look at the dolls.
To my surprise, in an aisle full of dolls, with them crowding both sides of the aisle, there was a total of zero black dolls. Not even a doll that was semi-brown that could pass. There was not one.
I don’t have anything against white dolls, but in a culture where even now little black girls get to see very few positive reflections of themselves in the media, I like to be able to provide those. It is one thing if I go into the store and see a white veterinarian doll and a black surfer doll and decide to buy the white one because I like veterinarians better. But I at least want to be able to choose a black doll, and I didn’t even have the option.
It would have been maybe more comforting had I happened to be shopping for a black doll in a predominately white area, which in this store, just outside of Baltimore, Md., also is not the case.
Instead, I think it is part of a sobering reality: that even in 2013 with a black family in the White House and black female entertainers dominating the pop charts, that black girls are still being presented with the message in both subtle and overt ways that they are at best undesirable and at worst don’t exist.
Undoubtedly, there will be someone who comes across this post and deems my stance as racist. To that person I will say this: You remember that time you were white and went into the store and only had black dolls to choose from? Need more time to think about it? I’ll wait….
In the meantime, after being annoyed, I decided that I didn’t want to just post the picture on Instagram and complain to my friends. I wanted to voice my concern in a way that would at least force someone to respond. I wrote a letter to the company—and am waiting for a response–asking for answers for why the shelves in their stores don’t reflect the world around them. Maybe there is some answer that I haven’t thought of, and I’m not going claim to know what it is, but I think it’s time that we all started to ask.
Do you have a hard time finding black dolls for your children? Does the race of the doll matter to you? Should it?
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