oreo barbie: black edition

I was never allowed to have a Barbie doll.  Of course that just made me want one even more.  I didn’t even like them that much, but EVERYBODY had them.  Everybody, but me.  So I felt left out and/or deprived of something.  Since this was my mother’s rule, I would beg any and everyone else that I lived with or visited to let me have one and keep it at their house.  No one acquiesced.  My mom always said she would not allow it was because those dolls were not only racist, but sexist.  If I recall correctly, her main issue was that the black barbies were just dyed white barbies.   That’s one of the main points of Ann DuCille’s Barbie post.  Today I am proud to have never owned a Barbie.  Thanks, Mom.


Apparently the “regular” version sold so well they decided to make this one.

The doll was eventually recalled.

Did Mattel intentionally produce a doll that embodied a well-known insult in the Black community?  If they didn’t (and let’s just go with that theory), it means that no one at Mattel involved in the production of this doll had the cultural competence to notice the problem.  This points to both (1) white privilege and the ease with which white people can be ignorant of non-white cultures and (2) a lack of diversity on the Mattel team.  Less employee homogeneity might have saved Mattel both face and money in this instance.  Diversity, then, is often good business.

For more on Barbie and racial politics, see this post inspired by Ann DuCille. Reblogged

7 thoughts on “oreo barbie: black edition

  1. Whaaat!!!
    Way 2 go, mom!!!
    But it’s not just Barbie. If we pay closer attention, it’s a lot of these toys and “innocent” characters. If I was working there, I probably would be the 1st to notice it. Yep…Diversity=good business 🙂

  2. i had loads of barbies growing up…i had mostly white dolls, but i had a few black ones too. my mom (she is white) wanted to make sure i at least had 1 black barbie, since im mixed…

    for some reason im not too upset about the oreo thing…i guess cause for starters it makes me want a cookie, and on top of that, im not really insulted by the term “oreo”.

    but im also not upset by the term “mutt” either, mostly cause i like dogs, and it would be a cute pet name, as a joke or something.

    although i really hate “nigger” and “mongrel”…now those words really anger and hurt me.

    i still dont know how i feel about “half breed”.

    but im not sure how i feel about the oreo doll….

  3. I can’t believe it! Mattel actual made a “black Barbie” and named her Oreo. Very insensitive but it makes me think that Mattel is missing the cultural and racial diversity of workers at their company . I grew up in the 70’s and had many barbie dolls (no regret). There wasn’t the choice(s) of Barbie dolls that we have today. Now in my early thirties I smile to see the racial diverse dolls that line the shelfs in the toy store.

  4. Mattel created Barbie’s with various themes, hobbies, careers and pop cultural/culture icons in mind. They also had a McDonald’s Barbie and a Coca Cola Barbie….and so then they had the oreo Barbie. And they decided to make a white and African american version of it, like they do with some of their dolls. The Peaches ‘n Cream barbie comes as AA and also the crystal barbie. I seriously doubt that it was made to make some kind of subtle insulting statement about African Americans. I also dont think it was a matter of Mattel just having employed ignorant white folks who dont know anything about the cultural and racial realities of the times they live in. If anything, this might have just been a genuine oversight where after dolls were produced someone said “wait….duhhhhhh….we messed up guys”. Happens. Mattel is a big company and in fact they were very well aware in 2001 that they couldnt just be so blatantly racist as a matter of practice. I mean this wasnt 1967.

    Moreover, in 1980 they did bring out an African American doll (in red glittery dress) – and she did have African features and is quite beautiful if you ask me.

    I do agree that the black dolls werent as popular and I did not like the black dolls mainly because they just looked like white dolls with black face paint. Just ridiculous. For me, as a child, it just made them look dirty in the face (as in literally you had smeared mud on it) mainly because it just wasnt authentic and i could sense that – even though as an 8 year old i didnt think much about race or even knew what it was. I just sensed it didnt feel right so I didnt like them.

    Barbie has – unjustly – become everyone’s fall guy where in reality it was just a fashion doll aimed to inspire girls and have them love playing adults/young girls who dress up and pursue different interests equally well. Dolls made in the US in the 50s and 60s almost always had the baby face (they were infants or toddlers) and obviously aimed at making women prepare for their roles as mothers and housewives.

    But Barbie changed that and , for example in 1963, they had an astronaut barbie that was telling girls that they could pursue highly scientific and generally male-dominated professions. Sure she was pretty and gorgeous, but that is what is great about her: it showed you could be pretty and fashionable and feminine, but also have brains and a wide variety of choices with respect to your interests and career choices. I mean the woman was single and owned her own house and her own car and was a gal on the go. Barbie was never a toy or a victim – she was the ultimate independent girl with her own mind.

  5. I like this doll, I’m going to buy it one day and add it to the collection. To me it doesn’t say: “black people are white inside” to me it says: “I love oreo cookies, they are yummy”.
    I think you should try to have a little bit more of self esteem, if you find this offensive then you must not think much of your race or even yourself.
    Oreo Barbie didn’t just come in a black doll, it also came as a white doll. It happens a lot with many of their theme Barbie dolls, “i love Elmo” “i love hello kitty” “i love sponge bob” etc… they all came in both black and white dolls. I respect your opinion on disliking Barbie dolls in general, hey, you are allowed to dislike whatever you want, but i think you are just over analyzing the situation a little bit, If I put a t-shirt that says “I love oreos” would you find that offensive?
    As individual items oreos and dolls they are pretty benign why would you find it offensive when put together.
    There are Barbie dolls from all over the world. I think that shows acceptance and even celebration of other cultures. If they had not made a black Barbie at all you would also be offended, I think.
    Bottom line is that everybody is going to be offended by something sometimes, I just never thought it would be by cookies.

  6. Pingback: All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from Black Barbie | ScottyF's Stuff

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