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