Monday, May 20, 2013

Racism, Oversights, and Lack of Realism: What Century Am I Living In?

 White parents of non-white kids know the truth.

Racism still exists...and we're not talking about watching films about Ruby Brides or reading a book about slavery.

I'm talking about current literature and films.

For example, the other day I took the kids to the library and grabbed a few, well, ok, a ton, of children's books.    I was so excited to pick up Ponyella, a book I'd seen in a Scholastic booklet.  

My girls and I sat on the floor and spent some quiet time flipping through the books we'd checked out.   I excitedly pulled out Ponyella to find pages such as these.  Ponyella being the dirty, white horse ("dirty" because of the work her stepsisters make her do); the stepsisters are the dark horses:  black and brown.  




According to the book's description, which I read later (bold/larger font is mine):

In this clever retelling of Cinderella, Ponyella longs to show Princess Penelope her fabulous leaps and jumps at the Tippington 25th Annual Grand Royal Pony Championship. But Plumpkin and Bun Bun, the mean ponies she shares a farm with, say that Ponyella's farm chores make her too dirty to be a champion.
With a little help from Ponyella's fairy godmare, her coat becomes marshmallow white once again, and her mane silky and beautiful. It's love at first sight for Princess Penelope and Ponyella — but what will happen when the magic runs out at noon?
Ahem?   Excuse me?  Are you kidding me??
Sadly, this is all too common.
Look at the BIG stink The Princess and The Frog made.   A Black princess, Disney promises!  Horray!!!  Yay!!!   Then she spends most of the movie as frog or as the cool Black friend of Charlotte (who is naturally rich and beautiful).      (Not to mention, the movie is quite scary and demonic, that I don't let my kids watch it!) 
Oh, and what about Sophia the First?   She's all the range on Disney Jr.   And she was supposed to be Latina.    But when the show aired, Sophia was had milky-white skin and reddish hair.   Oops, says Disney.  
Dolls are another example.   Even when companies attempt to represent brown-girls or create a doll for brown-girls, there are more fails than successes.   So-called Black dolls often have long, silky, straight hair, blue or green eyes....and these dolls appear to be racially ambiguous.   There will be five white dolls in a collection and one brown-skinned doll who is supposed to be all-other ethnicities.    Or something like that.  
My point is, it sucks. It sucks for not just my children or your children, but the White kids, too.   Where is the representations of the real world?  A world where not all darker-skinned beings are the "bad" guys or girls?  A world where toys truly represent what people of that race look like?   Their hair texture and eye color are accurate?    Where are the beautiful princesses who are mocha-skinned?  Why is there not an afro poking out of Rapunzel's tower?
And before you think I'm crazy/oversensitive/ this video.   
Racism is learned.  Fear is learned.   Stereotypes are taught...and learned.
So parents, be very careful, very discerning, when it comes to what your child reads and watches.    It does matter.  A lot.  


  1. Amen to this post. I've had the same discoveries. Discouraging.

  2. I think about this often... I wrote on a similar theme yesterday, even. As a white woman, I realize that I've never paid too much attention to racism. Overt, blatant racism, sure. But the subtle jabs and insidious brainwashing are not things I'm accustomed to looking for or thinking about. It's different now that I'm the mother of a brown daughter. I feel like I have a new set of eyes to see the world, and it makes me nauseous to think of the negativity she's going to encounter at every turn. All I can do is my best, to make sure that she doesn't learn fear and hate, and isn't defined or intimidated by racism in any form.

  3. This has been the struggles of black moms since I was a child. That's why my family have a large African American doll collection.

    My family traveled the world seeking appropriate dolls that were not just white dolls painted black, lol, there many of those. In the 80's - 90's what I call the "slut" doll was on the rise. Many African American moms were very upset with Disney. They asked them for over 10 years for a African American Princess and Disney gave us Princess and the Frog they knew the demand would help sell their product and movie. Unfortunately many moms were upset that the story line promoted witchcraft and the New Orleans voodoo culture. Yep! that's what they promoted.

    There are some really great small doll companies that make nice product but you really have to search or pay a high price. As a mom of multi-racial children you may have join play groups outside your comfort zone and talk to other Black Christian moms. There are some great multi-cultural books. I have been saddened by the Christian publishing market but that is another subject.

  4. Thank you!

    I bought my two boys a pack of Little People cars that had people in them. There were 12 different people. There was only one that slightly resembled a dark skinned person. Even so, the color of the "skin" was so unnatural - a brownish redish color with a tinge of green - that I'm not sure what they were going for. The hair is covered by a hat, so we can imagine that he has an afro.
    There was another one that *may* be Asian and one that has a dark tan, which we could imagine is Hispanic.

    I was very disappointed. What made me even more sad was that some people I talked to about it couldn't understand why I was so upset.

    I guess when you aren't living it, it's hard to understand what the fuss is about. When you have a white child with blonde hair and blue eyes and have no problem finding dolls or books that look like them you'd probably never give it much thought.

  5. I agree with everything said here; my only fear is the reaction of the African American community. Which may sound crazy to some people, but growing up with the family I had I can see the rage in their eyes. Saying how racist it is that the doll doesn't have long straight hair, but thick kinky locks which only perpetuates a stereotype I have come to try to avoid which is natural african american women aren't beautiful. Perhaps I am wrong in this thought, but I guess we'll never know until we get real dolls of color in our country.

    I don't have children yet, but when in do I want them to take pride in their heritage which would be African American and German. I know they will count on me and their father to teach them that, but they need real world representation of that heritage.

    I can't wait to have my first child, but the challenges that will arise make me so fearful...

  6. I have a 5 year old beautiful brown princess and I am having a REALLY hard time finding the right kind of toys for her. I've gone to Toys r Us, Walmart, and Target and still no luck. Walmart had 1 "black" doll that was dressed like a street walker. Her belly was showing and they literally painted a thong of this THING!! A THONG!!!

    On the hair front my daughter decided after watching Thumbelina that her hair was ugly. Apparently, she wants long golden hair. I purchased the The Prince and the Frog in the hopes of countering the effects of the 1st Disney mind twist but it only reinforced her dismay over her hair. This movie is dark, found a way to make the black father absent again,and makes the her a frog most of the movie. She just isn't dazzling. doesn't have a loving 2 parent home eagerly waiting her return, etc.

    It's a mess.

  7. I love the selection of dolls at They specialize in black and multiethnic dolls for kids. They even have a lot of dolls for boys.


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