A facebook friend posted this picture of an amazing Walmart find just yesterday. He whipped out his virtual rubber stamp and slammed it down on the photo, with gusto I might add. RACIST was the verdict, prefaced by his stance on the Barbie clan being a stereotypical representation of a black family. Most people chimed in with either LOL or SMH but I gave my honest and fabulously unpopular opinion on the matter. “It’s not racist, it’s just an extremely marginalized representation of the African American diaspora.” I was unnecessarily wordy and smug with my response but it was an accurate reflection of my thoughts. Me being a young, black mother doesn’t automatically put me on the defensive with issues like this. I didn’t get up in arms because 1) the image doesn’t represent me and 2) who decided that the representation was a bad one in the first place? Black people come from many different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and each has its own flavor. You only have to stroll about any urban neighborhood to see the real life version of what the image portrays. So, what’s the big deal?
Is it the weave? What’s wrong with wearing weave and color? Black women aren’t the only ones who do it. Emos do it, and Hannah Montana too. I know there are some natural sistas out there screaming, “WHY DO BLACK WOMEN FEEL THE NEED TO WEAR WEAVES ANYWAY?” and that’s a great question that I will be sure to cover down the line but, for the sake of staying on topic, let’s just focus on the issues that pertain the the image.
Moving on – Is it the style of clothing and the fact that the daughter is clothed the same way? The vibrant and randomly “matched” trend has been all the rage for a little while now, but dressing like you put your clothes on in the dark is nothing new and it’s not monopolized by black people. Wannabe bohemians and hipsters and all sorts of subcultures have their own interpretations of eclectic style.
Is it because the daughter is dressed like mommy? Some may feel that the style of dress is not age appropriate for the child doll but that’s more an issue of bad parenting than racism.
Is it the afro the boy is sporting? There’s nothing wrong with growing an afro, unless you’re truly racist and you think its “primitive” or unprofessional. Is it because he’s dressed in basketball gear? Basketball is a great sport and it keeps kids active and healthy.
Maybe it’s the advertising on the packaging that talks about “the hair show”, or the fact that the doll is called “Sis”. First of all, hair shows are fun! Secondly, what’s wrong with the doll being called “Sis”? It’s short for sister or “sista” and it’s a term of endearment within the black community. I asked him if he would rather the box read “bitch” or “ripper” (it’s a Bay area thang). I got no response on that. Is it because there’s no Kenyan in the picture? (See what I did there?)
During the (kinda heated) discussion on facebook the original poster listed off a whole bunch of stereotypes about other ethnic groups in America and asked if I would be okay with them being represented by a doll, all because I wasn’t perturbed by this one. Something about “a Mexican doll with her pet donkey” and “an Asian doll with a nail kit”. Therein lies the crux of the matter – by his logic, the black Barbie would have to be standing there with a minimum of four kids, hitting a crack pipe, and eating some watermelon that she payed for with her EBT card. Do you see my point? The average Mexican girl in America doesn’t have a pet donkey and the average Asian girl in America doesn’t do nails, but the average African American girl dresses and styles her hair according to the latest trends – there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and it’s not even exclusive to black girls. Toy manufacturers with a target demographic make sales by putting out a variety of products and the products have to reflect modern culture. Period.
Whether this picture is racist or not is subjective, made obvious by the varied responses I read through. This discussion and how upset some people seemed was troubling to me and I couldn’t figure out why. After I thought about it for a while I realized that I was disturbed by people’s comments about the doll being “too ghetto”. Really? What classifies as ghetto? And what about “ghetto” do people find so inherently bad? The dolls are just one representation of many.
What say you? Chime in with a vote and tell me what you think about this image and why!