Holiday Toy Shopping: Representation Matters

I took a Sociology class last year that investigated the correlation between dolls and racism. The study revealed a preference for the white doll among all children, internalized racism and self-hatred in African-American children, likely the result of segregation.

elfTaking a trip down the toy aisle of any major retail store, you will find a distinct difference between the availability of white dolls in comparison to brown dolls. Privilege. I went shopping for an Elf on the Shelf, a popular Christmas tradition for young children to be on their best behavior, in San Marcos, CA. I searched three different stores in my neighborhood for a brown Elf before being told that they are only manufactured in white. Privilege.

I couldn’t believe that I was experiencing white privilege while toy shopping. The sales associate tried to brush me off until I demanded he check the inventory for stores within a 15 mile radius.  I also suggested that he not offer information that he was unsure of. I had already checked online and knew for a fact that the brown option was available.

princess

Last year, I was shopping online to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals. As a mother of a little girl, I was super excited to find that Target had a Disney Princess 7-pack of dolls on sale. At first glance, I noticed that Princess Tiana was not in the group. Bummer. Then, I realized that ALL of the ethnic princess were noticeably absent from the 7 pack of dolls-major deal breaker. Privilege. Why does toy shopping for minorities mean not inclusive?

I searched Target’s website today and only found a $99 Shimmering Dreams collection of Disney Princesses. However, Walmart still has the original gift set. I did complain last year and posted my dissatisfaction to all of my social media accounts, encouraging my friends to do the same. I’m not sure if it helped or if Target simply discontinued the product. Either way, I look forward to a day where all of our children can feel important and represented.

Target is not the problem, it’s Disney that I had an issue with. It’s bad enough that it took so long for them to make a movie about a Black princess (I’m not even going to get into the horrible story line). I found it strange that the set included Elsa, although Frozen was released four years after The Princess & the Frog. Privilege.

Disney has recently announced their newest Princess, Moana, a Pacific Islander. I’m waiting to see if she will make the cut for the classic gift sets this year. My guess is that it’s highly unlikely.

Barbie is guilty of this as well. Their white dolls are usually adorned with all sorts of accessories and come in different careers/characters. For black dolls, selections are already extremely limited and depending on the area you shop in its worse. Upscale shopping areas will have more white dolls available.

White privilege is being able to go shopping for your children and not worry about finding suitable toys that represent your family whether it’s skin color or hair type. White privilege is being able to shop at upscale stores without possibly limiting your purchase options. White privilege is always having toys that portray your race as the norm..

This topic may seem insignificant to the average American without children. However, it represents a larger problem within society. Representation matters for all children. I know that it’s not completely up to toy manufacturers for children to be comfortable in their own skin, but it can certainly help. Body image is another thing that must be tackled to do away with perfection, but that’s an entirely different argument for another day.

I want my children to choose the toys that closely resembles their own skin. Thankfully, my son loved hot wheels and was never into action figures because that would have been an issue for me, too. I want my daughter to feel that black Barbie and baby dolls are just as beautiful as the white dolls. I wish I can go back and undo the time I had to encourage my four-year old daughter to embrace her curly black hair and not feel ostracized because all of her classmates and their dolls have straight blonde hair. Heck, I just want my daughter’s brown skin to finally be normalized.

Signed,

A Fed Up Mama

 

*Sound off in the comments section and let me know about your experiences with toy shopping this season. Thank you, for reading. <3

Why is Black Girl Magic Necessary?

We can have careers, healthy marriages, & thriving children.
We can cultivate dreams and nurture friendships.
We can do whatever it is that we put our minds to.
We can and we will. #BlackGirlMagic

***This post was originally drafted during Women’s History Month

Rosie the Riveter, was a campaign to recruit more women into the workforce during World War II. At the time, women were homemakers and relied on their breadwinner husbands for income. When a large portion of the men deployed, America needed the support of women to fill those job vacancies left behind. There was one problem with Rosie. She only represented one type of woman. The propaganda was directed towards recruiting middle class White women into the workforce. However, hidden in the shadows were Black women, often discriminated against and forgotten.

Raising her to embrace #BGM

There were 600,000 Black women that entered the workforce during WWII. Those women had to fight for equal pay, because they sat at the bottom of an unspoken hiring racial hierarchy. Not much has changed in the workforce today. Going back to the campaign. Perhaps, a Black woman wasn’t as beautiful as the woman pictured on the posters. Rosie, with fair skin and cherry cheeks did not represent women of all walks of life. Tough stance, but subtle gaze with the words “WE CAN DO IT” failed to mention that “we” was actually quite exclusive. We did not include me. Every time I see those posters circulating around the web in celebration of Women’s History Month, all I can think is what about us?

While at a children’s birthday party this weekend, I instantly thought of Rosie after seeing a jumbo inflatable boxing glove. The funny thing is, my six year old daughter picked it up first. [sidebar]: Not too keen on gender roles and norms, I will never be the mom that tells her she can’t do something because she’s a girl.  In fact, it made me proud that she wanted to play with the boys and was not afraid nor too prissy to get down and dirty in the grass. [end sidebar] Here’s to knocking out the status quo and shattering all stereotypes that society has placed on us. Here’s to teaching our daughters that they can be self sufficient and independent while still loving and honoring a man. Here’s to raising educated women that do not solely rely on their body to gain popularity or riches. Here’s to juggling a million things and succeeding at them all.

The back story to why I was moved to write on this topic: A kitchen is what Blacks refer to as the hair on the nape of the neck. I used to be embarrassed by my “kitchen.” So, I cut it off every time it grew. I religiously straightened my curls because that’s what made my hair appear longer. Whenever I saw a beautiful woman in the media, she had long hair. If it was not naturally long, extensions were added.  I, like many of my sisters, ran away from the rain or any water that threatened to revert my stretched locs to a curly fro.

I also grew up hiding my pronounced derriere because it seemed like it just did not fit my body. I hated the way I spoke. You see, I’m not one of the Black girls that speaks very well or articulates the right way-the proper way. In fact, I used to wonder if I should take speech therapy classes. The more I mispronounced words, the more silent I became. Without a confident voice, I searched for ways to
present myself as more valuable than a roll in the sack. I did everything I could to avoid becoming a
baby mama and still found myself raising a black boy alone. I tried so hard not to become the stereotypical black woman until I started to learn more about her essence. What does being a Black Woman mean? Why spend my entire life being ashamed of who I am?

In general, Black women are no longer hiding in the shadows. We are busting through the doors once closed and announcing that we have arrived. We are very well aware of all that we bring to the table at home, our workplace, heck even our country of residence. What would America have been without Michelle Obama in office the last eight years? I asked a few of my Instagram followers why Black Girl Magic is necessary and they responded as follows:
@raaaaaaeeeee “For the simple reason, we aren’t shown as black women ENOUGH that there is more to us than our bodies; mass media loves to show us in the Love and Hip Hop outlets, but lack showing the doctors, the activists, entrepreneurs, and businesswomen. To give an avenue to show black girls that they are awesome in a society that doesn’t like to tell them that.”
@jessd83 I think it’s necessary, because what distinguishes Black Girls is minimized, if even acknowledged (like boxer braids). Now, more than ever with a lot of negative images available, I think these two hashtags highlighting some of the [good] things we do is refreshing and great.”
@1thought.nyc BlackGirlMagic is necessary and needed because it is the strength and power of the Black woman that has kept our people alive, giving them the strength and power to continue on. It heals the warriors. It elevates boys to men and turns men into gods. It is needed because it is the life force of the universe, if it wasn’t for the love of the black woman, society would not exist.
@thedanifaust Why is someone even asking the question? SMH

To me, Black Girl Magic, like Black Lives Matter, is not about superiority or even exclusion. It has nothing to do with placing black girls on a pedestal while demeaning others. It has NOTHING to do with any other race. I believe Black Girl Magic has everything to do with finally loving who we are. I struggled with self love for so long because of the inadequacy that I used to feel as a Black woman. I once dated a guy who told me that I was the only black woman he would ever consider marrying. That was the breaking point for me. Was I supposed to take that as a compliment? Things like that had me questioning if I was good enough throughout my twenties. Nowadays, it’s heartbreaking to see so many women that are ashamed of their unique shapes and complexions. I wish we as a people can eventually get away from the mindset of “good hair and lighter skin tones” equating the better genetic variation. People talked about the rapper, Lil Kim, but I went through the same thing she experienced-not to that degree, but it still hurt. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Moving beyond physical appearance, Black Girl Magic is an ongoing celebration of the strides we
have made and continue to make. It’s a reminder that we are special and don’t need to be like or look like anyone else. It’s more about celebrating OUR plight after so many years of being denied equality. Despite the struggle, our perseverance has consistently set us apart to save an entire nation of people. Generations can have better lives because of the things our sisters endured. Children are promised a brighter future because of the labor pains and the gifts that so many mothers gave birth to. Strength and honor flows through our veins and each curve holds the secrets to our heart. Our men are able to go out each day to face the cruelty of this world knowing they can come back to our warm embrace and tender kiss. The angels taught us how to praise continually and forgive always. It’s a reminder that when God created the Black Woman, He simply created a masterpiece. Every woman unique and different in her own right. Every canvas receiving the same amount of love, attention and dedication yet each one telling a different story. We are all interconnected.

The next time you are feeling down and discouraged, sprinkle a little bit of Black Girl Magic on your face as you stare that sister in the mirror while affirming greatness. Walk boldly and confidently down the path God has called you to take. Safe travels on your journey to healing, self discovery and self love. The more in tune you become with yourself, the more you should raise your head up a little higher. Your stride should be that of a model on a catwalk. Your eyes should be set on the finish line of your goals with no looking back. You should exude confidence and regality as the Queen that you are.

May you never forget that Black Girls Rock.


Double Portion
She wears the color of royalty, because she is a Queen
The sway of her hips is like a love scene
The cadence of her feet and pep in her step creates a melody
She is a Black Woman that defines beauty.
Always uplifting others and offering encouragement
Teaching of love and peace-she must be heaven sent.
She is strength all wrapped up in smooth, ebony skin
If I had a choice, I would ask God to create her again.