By YANIQUE CHAMBERS
I love shopping at Walmart. Their Supercenter saved my sanity because they have everything I need in ONE location. This means I only have to go to one store to re-up on groceries and supplies after schlepping the kids from sporting event to sporting event. Plus the cart elevator amuses my children and puts them in a trance as they watch the carts go up and down from floor to floor.
Despite my love affair with Walmart, I do have one major gripe. Barbie.
Yesterday I took my Barbie loving three-year-old to your establishment in search of new dolls to add to her collection. See, she got a Barbie Dream House for Christmas and already has a collection of blonde hair blue-eyed Barbies. Since she is Black, naturally we wanted to add a Black Barbie to the collection.
I was beyond excited when I saw your shelves packed with summertime Barbies all for five dollars! A good deal on Barbies means that when my daughter chops off Barbie’s hair or my son breaks off her leg, I won’t have to give the “I’m not made out of money” speech. I tend to lose my cool during these speeches and to my horror begin to sound like my mother.
Would you believe that after searching through all the Barbies on your shelves, endcaps, and the hard to reach shelf where the overstocks go that I did not find one Barbie of color? I know this is not a big deal to many of your customers, but to me it’s a freakin’ big deal.
See, because it’s so hard to find a Barbie that is Black, and by Black I am not referring to the caramel colored Barbie that is meant to represent Latina, Black, and bi-racial people. I mean a Barbie that actually has a dark Lupita Nyongo complexion. Anyway, because it’s so hard to find that shade of Barbie, my little girl colors her doll with crayons to make it look more like her.
I know not many three-year-olds are concerned with the complexion of their dolls, but my child is. She wants to know why the ONE single doll of color I was finally able to find was light brown and not regular brown like she is.
Now Walmart, I know that you don’t manufacture the dolls, but you do decide which dolls to order for your store. I’ve heard, and I don’t know how true it is, that many stores won’t stock a lot of dolls of color because they are not a hot ticket item. I get it. You’re in business to make a profit.
But as a mom, I’m in business to raise children who love who they are and can appreciate that although they might not look like everybody else, they are just as worthy. I also like being able to bribe my child with a toy to not throw a colossal temper tantrum in the middle of your aisles. Therefore I would appreciate having easy access to a damn plastic doll that my child can relate to. I spend enough money at your store to at least get that.
I’m going to share with you something that you might not readily know. Many Black girls (and grown women) struggle with colorism and have this idea that the lighter their skin, the prettier they are. I tell my daughter to love the skin she is in EVERYDAY and that beauty comes in all different colors. However, this has not stopped her from asking if she can have peach skin like her Barbie.
I don’t want to have these conversations with my daughter, at least not when she’s three. I already had to try and explain to her why Princess Tianna was white when we saw Disney on Ice this past December. Trying to figure out this whole parenting thing is hard enough. I still haven’t mastered how to get my son to pee in the toilet AND flush. I would like to get a hang of this first before tackling issues with my daughter that I’m still struggling with as a 35-year-old Black woman.
And yes, something as simple as having a Black Barbie will make a difference. No, it won’t solve the problems of colorism or the lack of representation of children of color in popular kid shows. However, wouldn’t it be nice for Walmart to be a place little girls of color can go and feel like they matter as they walk down the doll aisle and are met with an array of Barbies that look just like them?
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Yanique Chambers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker turned stay-at-home mom. You can find her on her blog, kiddiematters.com, discussing creative ways to teach children valuable social and life skills. Check her out on twitter.com/kiddiematters and facebook.com/KiddieMatters.