While searching for a doll for a little girl, I was shocked to see that from the large selection of dolls, there were no African American dolls on the shelves. I couldn’t believe that this was the case. It’s not like I was looking for some special, antique, discontinued, rare find. I simply wanted a little African American doll to give to a little African American girl. In addition, I wasn’t shopping at a specialty store that only offered a small variety of items, I was at a Target.
The brand of doll I was looking for is the “Just Like Me” doll. These dolls are a must less expensive version of the original “American Girl” doll, which is a line of 18 inch dolls that portray eight to twelve-year-old girls. The dolls come in a variety of options of hair and eye color, skin tones and various outfits that allow children to pick one that looks like them.
Though I was upset, I just scoffed and said to myself that I’d go somewhere else to buy a doll. So the next morning, I went to a Wal-Mart in search of their version called the “My Life” doll. Once again it was the same scenario, shelves were full but there were no African American dolls. Only white dolls were offered. This time I really got upset. I couldn’t help but think about how the little girl that I was buying the doll for would feel if she looked up at all the dolls and was supposed to pick one that looked like her and there were no African American ones for her to choose. Not just fewer to pick from but none!
As time went on I began to notice other situations where it not only appeared to be geared towards white people but that it actually was the case. Each time all I could think about was, what about Laila. For example, while looking through the Pottery Barn Kids magazine I noticed, two mermaid beach towels. The mermaids were the same except one had blonde hair and the other had brown. I gasped as I realized here it is, once again! The mermaids had different hair but both were light skinned. I screamed out loud, What about Laila? She loves mermaids! How is she supposed to feel if she wants the mermaid towel and both of the mermaids were white? Exasperated, I fired off an email to Pottery Barn asking them why their designers would go to lengths to change hair color to make the item more personalized for a child but not take any measures to change skin tone. They replied with a beautifully written response that explained that there was a dark skinned mermaid offered on line. This infuriated me even more! What they were basically saying was, we offer 3 mermaids, but the dark skinned one wasn’t good enough to make the cut to be in the catalog. Once again all I could think about was, what about Laila?
While looking through, “Smithsonian” Magazine, I noticed an advertisement for the, “Shoot for the Moon Career Collection” dolls. In this series of 18 inch dolls, the dolls are dressed in outfits that represent different careers. But this time not only was there not a black doll in the advertisement but there wasn’t a black doll offered on their website either! So I ask, what is Laila supposed to think? Is she supposed to think that only white people will have careers?
In the beginning of my search for the doll when I would ask myself, what about Laila, I was initially thinking about her feelings. I was appalled that a company that makes baby dolls could be so insensitive as to not have enough of their dolls on the shelves available for everyone who wants one. As my journey continued, I began to think not only of Laila’s feelings being hurt on the surface, but how continued incidences like these can affect her self esteem. My mind began to spin at the horror of the continued disregard for her race and how it could ultimately affect her. It’s obvious that if all your life you are told something you are eventually going to believe it. But what if all your life you aren’t directly told something but that you continue to experience it in other ways, then you begin to learn and expect that too. Because ultimately if it looks the same, sounds the same & smells the same, it must be the same.
I know Laila will be fine regardless of the countless times she will be disregarded because of the color of her skin. She comes from a loving family that has instilled in her, her worth regardless of what she encounters. Laila comes from a home that has taught her that her “head sits on her own shoulders,” meaning that she is smart enough to think for herself, regardless of what someone says. She knows that if someone calls her a name other than Laila, then she doesn’t have to respond because its not her name. But what about the other little girls? What if they don’t have a good self worth? What if no one has told them they are special? How are they supposed to feel when they are disregarded simply because of their race? Then I began think, what if what’s going on is more than just a disregard for African American girls not being offered a doll that looks like them. What if the company not only doesn’t want there to be African American dolls available for little African American girls, but what if they don’t want African American dolls to be available for little white girls to get to choose either. People are not born racist and they aren’t born thinking they are superior or inferior to others but it is simple something that is taught. What if the company doesn’t want a little white girl to get the chance to choose an African American doll? It’s been said, “It’s a white man’s world,” these situations validate that statement.
I began to recall times over the years that I’ve noticed things that just aren’t right:
• For example, Spotify is an online music streaming service. The song “Gin & Juice,” when sang by Snoop Dogg, who is African American, is labeled as explicit. However, the same exact song, with the same exact lyrics when sang by a band made up of white people, called The Gourds, is not labeled explicit.
• On a tour of the Capital in Washington DC, I found it odd that all the statues in the rotunda were full body statues except for the one of Martin Luther King Jr. whose sculpture was only a bust. I couldn’t help but notice that all the full body statues were of white men while the smaller one of just the bust was of an African American.
• When Caucasian, pro football player, Tom Brady slams a football or uses profanity out of anger he is called passionate or spirited but when and African American, Antonio Brown expresses his anger in the same kind of ways he is called aggressive and disrespectful.
• I challenge you to think about invisible bandages; just who are they invisible for? Not an African American but only Caucasians.
These examples from various parts of life are not examples of my opinions but simply examples of facts.
With all of these examples of facts in which African Americans are unfairly treated it makes me realize why some people protest the Confederate Flag. While some view the Rebel Flag as a symbol of southern heritage and pride, it also resonates with many as a reminder of slavery and oppression. Some view the Confederate Flag with just as much horror as others view the Nazi Flag. Which brings me to ask the question, why is so much emphasis and education put on teaching about the holocaust and not slavery? Children are taught about concentration camps, gas chambers and trying to eradicate an entire race but not about branding, instruments of submission, beatings/whippings, log yolks rape and leg irons. Why would we go to lengths to teach our children about horrific behaviors of other countries and ignore the brutality that was inflicted right here in the USA?
I’ve heard people say before that when slavery was abolished some slaves wanted to stay with their owners. This angers me to hear because someone who makes such a statement clearly isn’t thinking of why anyone would want to choose to be owned and made a slave. A slave that was scared to go to free was because they had no where to go, they had nothing to take, so basically what other choice did they have but to “want” to stay? For those that argue that Africans sold Africans into slavery to Americans, they need to realize that they were forced to do so. Americans told the Africans that if they didn’t sell them slaves then they would overtake their land. Africans were forced to turn on each other.
I challenge you to pay attention to things, not only to what suits you but try to see things from the perspective of someone whose African American. Ask yourself what is racism and why African American people and white people see it so differently. I believe its because its more common and more precedent in the African American communities than it is in white communities. While racism clearly isn’t just against African Americans it is what was brought to my attention and what was impressed upon my heart to take a closer look at and to share my findings. While I realize that there will always be inequalities and that life isn’t fair. I also know that treating someone differently, especially in any kind of unpleasant way is wrong. I am thankful to have a greater insight as to why some people are so angry and why there are so many times where race becomes an issue. It’s because it is an issue. For those who will argue that racism is a thing of the past they clearly are in denial of the vast number of harsh occurrences that exist on a daily basis for so many African Americans. When I think about the ruthless behavior that many African Americans encounter each day and have endured over time, I wonder how an African American soldier feels when he serves his country and goes to war and then returns home only to still be treated differently simply because of the color of their skin. I now can make sense of and accept why Colin Kaepernick silently kneeled alone while the national anthem was being played. He recognized that in his position, he had the gift of an opportunity /to take a stand against our country’s treatment of racial minorities. To make a closemouthed statement that rendered a protest against the oppression of people of color. Kaepernick is not only fed up with the fact that an African American male is killed every 38 hours by an officer of the law, he is fed up with the consistency of inhuman treatment of African Americans that sustains itself even today in 2019.
It all started while searching for a gift for a little girl who has a piece of my heart. Though I didn’t find the gift I was looking for, what I found was something worth much more. I found a greater understanding for what others experience. I found empathy for those that are mistreated. I found a new compassion for a race of people that haven’t just experienced oppression in the past but that still have to fight reoccurring, historical incidences over and over again each day. It is my hopes that you get it, that you too notice the maliciousness mayhem that is some’s reality.