Growing up, I don’t recall seeing black/brown merchandise on the shelves at stores. When I walked the aisles of Walmart, Target, Home Depot, The Dollar Store and various other stores, there was nothing that looked like me or the people in my home and in my family. No black children on t-shirts, no black Santa Claus or black figurines, no black children on the cereal boxes or even black mannequins modeling clothes. No where. Nothing.
If you have never come to this realization, it is probably because you did see yourself – everywhere and in every store. There are a number of examples throughout my life where I vividly remember not seeing myself (or my people, for a lack of a better way to write that). Think about if Santa was caught at our house – he wouldn’t look like a white man with a beard. He’d look like Evie’s dad. Think about what it would be like to never see that man in the store or at any Christmas themed event. In Lafayette if I want a picture of my child with Santa, she will sit on a white man’s lap …
Years ago, I lived in a small town and would go days without seeing black people. Days, y’all. I loved the area and I am still very fond of it. I cherish every memory made there. Yet, there were no black people. I graduated from THE Xavier University of Louisiana – MY HBCU – completed school with hundreds of black pharmacists, but when I went to work, I was the only one. I should have thought of that prior to graduating, but that is beside the point. It was like I was a unicorn – not in any valuable or good unicorn, but I felt extremely different.
I’d walk the halls of the hospital (this particular one stands out in my mind) and there was a picture of two children on the wall – one white and one black. The white child was smiling with big bright eyes. The black child was not smiling, but seemed a bit somber. Maybe I felt like she looked. Have you/your people ever been depicted negatively in print or constantly portrayed in a bad light in the news? Have you wrestled with what color of pantyhose or bra were closest to your skin tone? Have you tried to find a match for your make up in the 80s/90s? Have you felt an overwhelming desire to see yourself or who you want to be in well, anything? What about in leadership roles of local non-profits or the c-suite of a hospital. Well, I have. Who doesn’t want to see themselves on a cosmetic ad/package, as a local leader, business owner, modeling the latest fashion, or on TV? Hello – have you seen the black emojis on your iPhone? I know you have – I use these regularly. It really is difficult to want to become someone or something if you have never seen anyone like you in that role. I want better and more for my child.
We should all be represented in television, make up & hair ads, career brochures, volunteer organizations, and leadership recruitment videos. We can be doctors, lawyers, Senators, pharmacists, educators, investors, and President of the United States. Why does this matter? My kid is black. There are now bandaids that more closely reflect her skin tone. There are dolls that are available for purchase that look like her. There are several companies who are forging the path to making more diverse children’s items, books, more diverse holiday items, inclusive and clean skincare items, and are leading the way for us all to see black people in their products. Kudos to the diversity and inclusion teams at these companies and for the store owners to value these products. Some of these companies and organizations have done an amazing job evolving with better looking black dolls and black characters in toys. For too long, we looked terrible when and if an attempt was made. Y’all know these black dolls are not at all created the same as white ones. I am currently struggling to find black faces on embroidered items, black faces on fabrics, and black kids as models in stores. We want to know what our kids would look like with that outfit on too. Where are the black nativity scenes? HELP.
What’s next – How and Why?
Diversify the shelves. Shop and patron places that do this. Stock the shelves with all skin tones. Seek these out intently. Ask local shop owners if they can order things for you. Write to your favorite artists, local shop, and creative thinkers to encourage them to diversity their items. Keep it in the forefront of your mind that you can and should diversify your space. Recall my previous post – start there.
What are we doing?
Well, we buy it all. We buy black dolls, and white dolls, and all the different things. We do and probably always will have more black dolls than white ones. My child is black so she should be represented in this house – Princess Tiana – hello (about time Disney). We buy them all because the world outside of our house does not look like the inside of our home. All skin tones are beautiful. We play with them all. We name them after random people, places, and things – Juju came from the zoo and Rosie is from Ring around the Rosie. We don’t treat any of them better or worst than the other. We respect them all equally and we teach her that she should play with all of them – especially the ones that haven’t been touched in a while. We hold them. We rock them to sleep. This is how children can begin to see skin color and differences and how that, even though these things may be different, we will treat them all the same. So, my daughter will hopefully know and understand that not only can she do or be anything that she wants, but that everyone can.