“BUT I REALLY WANT THIS DOLL, MAMA!”
My 4-year old’s eyes erupted huge tears and through gasps of cries, I knew this battle wasn’t going to be an easy one.
“But…look at this necklace. It’s your favorite color. Ooooh, look…una tortuga! You LOVE tortugas.”
Her crying intensified.
And then she got serious. She took a few deep breaths and with flooded eyes she looked at me and asked, “Why can’t I have this mermaid doll, mommy?”
I got down to her level and told her.
“Because the doll doesn’t look like you.”
And it didn’t. My 4-year old fell in love with a mermaid doll. Said doll came in a myriad of pretty fin colors. From purple to pink, turquoise, and green, the doll’s fins matched their hair. The doll’s body, however came in one color – white. There was no doll with tan colored skin. No brown. No black. Just white.
It’s 2017 and representation is supposed to matter but my Black child can’t even find a doll that looks like her. Lovely, right?
Not lovely. It was heart crushing to her and while I was able to convince her to get another toy, I knew she’d likely remember not being able to get that doll at some point. We’d have to revisit her frustration and I was annoyed that once again, stupid brands and stupid toys can’t cater to people that don’t have White skin.
Look. I’m not buying my Black child White dolls. I don’t feel sorry about it. I don’t have any regrets. I likely won’t change my mind.
I am a Black woman raising a Black girl. I know firsthand the importance of having dolls that looked like me. I know how it feels to scan dolls in a store and know that NOT ONE looks like you. I know how easy it is to glorify what you don’t have.
This is why my kid hasn’t seen Frozen.
Do I really need my kid to be obsessed with a movie where there isn’t ANYONE that looks like her?
This is why the only Disney princess she knows of is Tiana.
She could pick Tiana out of a line-up but the other princesses?
She doesn’t know them. I’m okay with this.
This is why she’s hooked on shows and movies with brown characters. This is why I introduced her to positive examples of Black and brown people. Moana? Sure? The Gabby Douglas movie? All day. Doc McStuffins? Go for it.
The world will do a fantastic job at introducing her to what’s considered beautiful later. She’ll have to deal with people asking her about her skin, her hair, her hair texture and her intentions. She’ll see a slew of TV commercials, TV shows and movies that feature people that don’t look like her. It’ll become her norm. Just like it was my norm.
But I refuse for her to not be represented in her own home. Yes, my kid knows that alllll shades are beautiful but in this house, she will only have dolls of color. I don’t need her lusting after White skin and blonde hair the way I was and many girls of color were.
Do you think it seems a bit extreme to only allow my child to play with Black dolls?
Do you know what’s even more shocking?
…how my kid doesn’t get the choice to select a doll that looks like her.
Ain’t that somethin’?
My Mom raised my sister and I the same way – only playing with Black dolls. If we received White dolls for gifts, she’d exchange them. I’m glad she did this. And even though she did it, I still struggled with my Blackness and questioning why my skin was an issue.
I’m not worried about EB. I will work hard to make sure she knows how beautiful she is.
I will make sure she is represented at home.
Even though she won’t be adequately represented outside of the home.