For my daughter’s sixth birthday I was determined to buy her a Barbie birthday cake. I had gotten one for my birthday when I was a child and I was convinced she would love it. I walked into the store extremely excited about the idea of what her face would look like when she saw it. Sadly I was informed that the store did not make the cake with Black Barbies. The only option was the typically White Barbie cake. I was very disappointed. Not only were my plans of a perfect birthday party falling through, but my feelings were also hurt. How could a bakery in a city with a significant visible minority population decide that someone who looks like me isn’t important enough to have options? How dare they make the assumption that what we want doesn’t matter?
I ended up making the birthday cake myself that year. I used one of the Barbies my daughter had gotten as a gift from my brother the year earlier. I still remember the difficulty we had searching for that particular doll.
Every toy store we visited, including one of the most popular toy store franchises in North America did not carry Black dolls. We finally found one at a department store. It was Destiny’s Child “Kelly” doll, which interestingly enough was the only Destiny’s Child doll that actually looked Black. My daughter has had it ever since. It was Kelly that graced the birthday cake that year.
Like the Destiny’s Child dolls at that lone department store, have found that even the “ethnic” toys that are available do not necessarily bare resemblance to those they are meant for. Instead they are crafted as White dolls with slightly darker skin tones (and I do mean slightly.)
A few Christmases ago, my daughter received the coveted Baby Alive doll. We were all shocked by the grayish, chalky looking skin tone which was reminded us of something else entirely. Not to be morbid or anything, but if you’ve ever seen the corpse of a Black person, it is just that, gray and chalky looking. Baby Alive, or Gabriella as my daughter affectionately calls her, bares a disturbing resemblance to something most of us don’t ever want to see.
Still, I promote the production and purchase of ethnic toys. When I was growing up, there was a friend of my parents that used to send us Black dolls. I have no idea where this lady ( who lived in rural New Brunswick) got these dolls. Come to think of it, she must have ordered them from somewhere because back then you certainly couldn’t walk into a store and buy one. Either way we were never disappointed.
I’ll admit things are getting better. Ethnic dolls are looking a little more believable these days. I think there’s even a new Baby Alive doll with a better skin tone than Gabriella!
I wonder if there is a store that specializes in ethnic dolls? I'll have to start looking around. I’d love some advice on where I can find a great selection of ethnic toys.
So, if anyone ever chooses to read my daily rants, please do share!