I believe children’s knowledge of the world and their place within in it is a byproduct of their environment. However, this poses many pertinent questions:
What happens when their environment is ubiquitously White?
How will it make a Black child see themselves if they never see positive images that look like them?
How will it make White children see others if they never see positive images of other races?
How will it manifest itself in their thought processes and life choices?
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It has been said that greater diversity in the toys children play with will impact how they see themselves and others in the future. However, a toy store is a business and not a goodwill venture. If Black dolls supposedly do not sell in great enough numbers, toy stores logically are not going to stock them. Or if they do, they will be ridiculously expensive. For instance, the Mattel Beyonce doll is nearly $150 dollars on Amazon.
A Zapf Creation spokeswoman told the BBC:
“Whilst the black version of the Baby Annabell doll was discontinued due to lack of demand, the black version of the Baby Born Interactive doll is still in production and available to all UK toy retailers. However, some retailers take the decision not to stock all versions of the dolls and accessories due to shelf space constraints.”
In truth, if you live outside of a major city that has a large Black community, you will most likely not see a Black Doll in your local toy shop. However, the internet is a big place. We often say ‘we need to support black businesses’. Well, buying gifts for your children can be the first start of that process.
There are many Black Doll suppliers online and at local markets in London. I know, some people have questioned the price of Black dolls or complained that the shipping cost adds to the price of the doll. However, the price is higher because the demand is lower and postage is rarely free for anything online. Moreover, if a greater number of Black people supported Black-owned doll companies then the price would be able to drop as production costs would fall with the increase in stock being sold.
For instance, Taofiq Okoya, a Nigerian doll maker, is selling 6.000 units of his Queen of Africa doll. He decided to venture into the toy making industry about 9 years ago when he was unable to find an African doll for his niece’s birthday. He had also observed his daughter’s self-esteem problem due to her complexion not matching the media driven ‘beauty standard’. Therefore, Taofiq wanted to create a doll that would help children identify with their African lineage while embracing their skin heritage, beauty and complexion.
BBC Reported that Sheine Peart, a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, said a lack of black dolls “marginalises” black children.
“If I want to have black figures, Lego figures provide that, as do Playmobil, and I can buy a black Barbie and a black male doll called Steve – who’s the equivalent of Ken,” she said.
“I can buy them, but I have to hunt them out if I want to buy them as a parent. I’ve never seen this black Steve anywhere but I’ve seen Kens in the shops – it should almost be side by side.
“If there’s a black child, and they see no black toys, it almost creates a colonial environment and that effectively says, ‘there’s no place for me’.
“It positions the black child as an outsider and not integral to society. It marginalises them. Psychologically, that probably will have some impact.”
This impact has been shown and proven by which dolls children pick up and label as good and bad.
The Doll Test has long been used to question societies stereotyping choices and internalized racism. It has often led to some in-depth and sometimes controversial questions needing to be asked: Why do children see the Black Dolls as the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ dolls? Who is to blame when the sickness of racism infects young impressionable minds? Is it the Parents, TV, Teachers or Society?
Young children usual love receiving gifts at Christmas. However, these children weren’t too pleased to receive a Black Doll as a Christmas gift. Their mother can even be heard laughing in the background of the video!
In @Antoinespeaker‘s video, we discuss why their reaction is not unique and what it means about society, diversity in the media and the concept of beauty. We compare The Doll Prank vs Doll Test and discuss the results of both:
I would end on saying, the dolls do not have to come from a black-owned business. For instance, Barber has recently released dolls of prominent black celebrities. However, like the Beyonce doll, they too can be very expensive.
However, my point is marginalised groups such as the Black diaspora, need to support businesses owned by our own community in order to keep them in business. Moreover, said support is needed to ensure our community’s needs and culture are not exploited or simply ignored.
Therefore, supporting a billion dollar company like Barbie, after they have taken decades to decide to care if your children’s mental health fits their profit margins, will a lot of the time come at the expenses of a small black-owned business’s existence. This is despite said business only existing in order to support the well-being of our communities children. Moreover, overly supporting established corporations, robs the small business black or otherwise, of the potential to grow in size and thus potentially provide a greater doll range, and more important,ly create more jobs opportunities for the community.
So, yes you can buy from Barbie, Bratz or any other major company. However, try to give some thought to the small businesses, that are trying to support your children and actually need your patronage.
However, as we ask and receive more representation in mainstream media, film and TV, I understand we will have more characters, superheroes and celebrities being made into toys, figures and teddies for our children. So, I would not want you to feel like you are betraying the black-owned toy doll shops because you decided to get Black Panther action figure, or this D.C superhero Bumble Bee figure, that actually looks pretty cool!
With that said, here is a list of just some of the black-owned doll manufacturers. Please share so more people can educate their children and support these businesses and please comment the links to other black-owned toy/books suppliers.
https://www.colouredgoodies.nl/ – This website is the first Black-owned doll shop in Europe. They also do deliveries!
This link is a music box with a Black Ballerina inside
Plus, if you click on this link from Tumblr you will see countless pictures and posts about Black dolls and where to find them
Once again, if you know of anymore black doll makers please leave a comment below with their website/name.
Here are some empowering poems for every Black parent and person should play, teach and empower our children with:
Here are a few other articles you should read
- Gilbert Arenas says Lupita is not ‘cute’ because she is dark-skinned
- Why more Black men should embrace the joy of reading books
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