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Is it Time to Stop Supporting American Girl:Is Mattel Ignoring Little Black Girls?




 I guess the question is, why am I so mad. The GOTY 2018 girl was leaked months ago all over social media and still after seeing the reveal the other day on GMA I  felt some kind of way. I had to examine why I was angry when I saw Luciana come out of the sky in an astronaut uniform as little black girls cheered her on, bright eyed and bushy tailed.  I could literally feel steam coming from my nose. It was because American Girl took me back to a dark space, a space I had been before as a young black girl growing up in the 80s. This was a space where diversity was limited and the idea of a little black girl even being in a story book was  just a dream. In fact,  I do not recall any story book from childhood to our reading list in  high school that included a little black girl. I only remember Huck Fin and To  Kill a Mockingbird. No stories of black princess, and certainly of  little black girls.

 In 1993, American Girl released Addy Walker  and not only did little black girls now have a beautiful doll that looked like them but they also had the accessories even a story book of a brave little black girl. Addy was popular amongst white parents who were excited to share her story about slavery and bravery with their daughters, but as one collector stated" As realistic as Addy's collection is  they still failed to tell the brutal truths about slavery. After many years of  harassment Mattel finally released a few more AA dolls. First Ceclie then Melody. If you blinked you missed Cecile she was archived within 3 years.  Melody's Civil Rights based story line was a success again with many collectors especially since Dr. King is now considered a hero in our history books.

I think Mattel thought that it had succeeded in quieting down Black American mothers who wanted to see another doll other than a stereotype, a slave, but  as time approached for the 2017 GOTY to be released., There where still complaints. None of the previous GOTY dolls where AA.So,  Mattel decided to silence the complainers and release  Gabrielle McBride. Finally, an African American GOTY, right. Well following the success of Lea and Grace's collection  many parents and myself anticipated a collection that would be out of this world, instead we got  little black girl in the hood who has a collection that you can count on one hand. So, the complaints rolled in not only from Black mothers but from mothers of all colors who refuse to buy a doll that was identical to one already released, with  a bed that almost identical  to a previous GOTY and a dance bar that looked like they simply spray painted something from Isabella's collection. Was Gabbie to poor to have  the extravagant collection other GOTY's have had?  Can AG not visualize little black girls as anything other than a slave or entertainment for others? Why could Gabbie not have a collection to inspire all girls and especially little black girls about careers and defying stereotypes?

 So this is where I am right now  the same place I was in school, invisible.  In school many little black girls are there but they are invisible to the teachers. Never encouraged to  play the lead role in a play, never asked if they are interested in learning how to play tennis or golf, never asked attend  any sleep overs because  they are ignored and invisible to many. Never playing the role of a princess in a story book, till Disney decided to create Tiana. Never encouraged to join the UIL spelling or social studies teams because they are invisible.

  I was advised by an elder to boycott and  not to purchase their dolls if they don't represent me. I am at a turning point as a collector because I have been rubbed the wrong way but have the power to decide where and with who I spend my money. Today, I will write a letter to AG and I will share my thoughts and why  they have did Black mothers  and all little girls a disservice by putting little black girls in boxes and then ignoring them. AG took the time to research Lucianas collection. I wonder how much time was taken to research Gabbies collection and her story about a community center in the hood. I wonder if they had a research team  and  I wonder if black mothers decided to boycott AG would they care and would it make a difference in their sales. After all, AG's fan base was white mothers and daughters. They had no desire to appeal to a diverse population and many collectors took pride in the idea that they where collecting and purchasing dolls that others could not afford. Of course today we know that many parents of color do spend lots of money with AG
.
 Let me hear from you. Are you feeling some kinda way since Luciana's release? If so, why? Would you consider boycotting AG or writing a letter?  I'm encouraging all moms  black and white to write   and encourage diversity amongst their character roles.
Please send your letters here and let them know how you feel.

American Girl
P.O. Box 620497
Middleton, WI 53562-0497

Comments

  1. I agree with the elder: boycott and do not purchase from a company that under represents you and/or fails to give the same attention and devotion to black dolls as they do to white dolls. Let your concerns be known by writing letters as you've suggested. Will the letters and complaints fall on blind eyes or deaf ears? It is quite possible, but at least you know they are aware of your concerns.

    Long ago I realized that companies and doll artists that do not have a black-doll focus will never embrace diversity and give any black doll they make the same amount of attention as they give white dolls. Why? Because 1) they do not care to do so and/or 2) they are of the false opinion that black dolls don't sell.

    When you hit a company where it hurts, even a few dollars lost in revenue will get their attention and you're not funding a merchant that continues to ignore your needs.

    dbg

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