Monday, April 25, 2016

Black Barbie Embargo

"I was nervous to go up the stage to receive my medal," my 8-year old nephew told me. I asked him why. "They laughed at me during practice because of my dark skin. I was afraid they would laugh at me again."

I may not have a dark skin, based on Filipino standards, and I have enjoyed some privileges based on my looks, but still I get little heart breaks every time anyone makes fun of someone dark-skinned like my nephew. That is why the on-going Black Barbie embargo is troubling for me.

I noticed the embargo on black Mattel dolls early last year when they started releasing these stiff Fashionista. Everyone in the lineup was available locally except for Nikki. The same thing happened with the Life in the Dreamhouse dolls. The Nikki doll was not sold locally. The Barbie Style dolls with ankle joints landed locally without Nikki nor Grace. While the western world was celebrating the racial diversity in the Barbie Fashionista lineup, our part of the world was short changed with the absence of certain dolls (pictured below) from the local toy stores. Not pictured but was also not made available locally was the dark-skinned Made To Move doll with the Asha head. In my 8 years of collecting Barbie dolls, I have never seen a black Holiday Barbie sold in the local primary market.

"Embargo" and "banned" may have been strong words and since the dolls mentioned above can be bought by hook via online sellers, with an extra cost, of course. Some dark-skinned dolls also made it to local toy shelves like the burgundy haired doll I bought. Those beach themed dolls always make made it to local toy shelves even if they are dark skinned. Dark skin and beaches goes together, I guess. Or were they made available because they look more Latina than Black??? (My burgundy haired doll look more Latina.) The collector dolls have, at least, better luck. Some of the locally sold The Barbie Look dolls have dark skin. The story changed recently.

Now, adult collectors no longer has easy access to dark-skinned doll as demonstrated by the absence of the Night Out doll from the last The Barbie Look release. This is silly because based on experience, starting from the very first Barbie Basics line, the blacks dolls are the first ones to get sold out. That is true even with the stiff Barbie Look dolls. In major toy stores, there is still a lot of white Barbie Look dolls available but none of the black ones (because they sold out). It makes no sense why the Night Out doll, which has a good chance of being sold out, was not sold locally. Could it be because of the recent change in the leadership in Mattel?

Initially, I thought our local distributor was at fault. Maybe they didn't order the dolls because black dolls don't sell well locally. I have no sales record to confirm that but it is what most Mattel apologists say. If you look at the things our local distributor has no control over, like the packaging, you will realize that even before the dolls were boxed, someone already made sure that they won't be officially distributed in certain markets. Did you notice how the black dolls are missing in the packaging of Barbie Fashionista and Made to Move dolls?

I can't think of a dark-skinned Filipino, especially with ethnic features, who is regarded with high esteem locally. We do have a dark-skinned Filipino in a high position in the government but a lot of people see him as a corrupt official. The only dark-skinned character my 8-year old nephew looks up to is Nick Fury and he's not even black in the comics. It is important to me to have positive images like power, beauty, kindness and intelligence, to name a few, to be associated to an image of someone with a dark skin. It's for my nephew. This is where Mattel and Richprime could have helped. 

I don't understand how Mattel is willing to promote diversity in certain parts of the world but not in others. It sounds a little discriminatory to me.

Why should you make my concern, your concern? If your a non-racist white person, you probably have  a number of Black friends. You wouldn't want your friends to experience what Elayne narrated in the video below. 

Let's keep this from happening ever again. Help associate positive images with black people and make these images available worldwide, not just where black people lives. This includes having black Barbie dolls on the Philippine toy shelves.

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