When I was kid my dad used to take my sister and I to Toys-R-Us to reward us for exceptional things we had done. As a little kid these exceptional things usually consisted of getting good grades, birthdays, and occasionally we got toys just because we begged for long enough. Straights A’s on our report cards usually meant we were hopping in the car and heading out to get a new toy.
I don’t remember what birthday it was, but I do remember that I was young enough to not understand the situation, but old enough to know that it meant something important. For my birthday that year I had decided that I didn’t want a party, I wanted a doll. I had never been a doll girl, I always opted for the balls or better yet anything Nintendo. This year was different, they had been advertising this barbie doll for weeks and I decided that I needed to own it. So my dad and I journeyed to Toys-R-Us, me bubbling with excitement, my dad was just annoyed that he was stuck in a toy store.
Finally I dragged him to the doll section and pointed to the doll that I wanted. It was a standard Barbie, with the bone straight blond hair, thin physique, and everything else that a Barbie came with. In that instance my dads calm annoyance turned to something else, he didn’t get mad, but I knew that I wasn’t going to walk out of the store with the toy that I wanted. He told me that I couldn’t pick that specific doll, but I could get one of the black ones that were also available. Normally I would have thrown some sort of fit and tried to get my way, but I just knew that this was not one o
f those battles that I could win with some crocodile tears. I picked my black doll and we went and paid.
It wasn’t till I was much older that I began to understand the importance of representation for young black girls and that experience in the toy store came into mind. Who knew that my dad was low-key woke?? I understood that my dad wanted me to have a doll that looked like me rather than a doll that looked like the other girls around me. Having black barbies allowed me to see something other than the “norm”, it allowed me to be comfortable with the fact that I didn’t possess the same features as the original Barbie but it was okay because my black barbie had the same nose as me.
To this day representation still means a lot to me. Yes, I believe that being surrounded by people that look like you helps your self-esteem, it helps you f
eel comfortable in society. I don’t think that this should stop when you are little. To this day I still feel proud to see a black woman as a lawyer or doctor on tv, I feel proud to see women like Shonda Rhimes take over writing. It makes me feel like I can do anything that I set my mind to. It is important that our young women see that black women don’t always have to be portrayed as angry, or poor, or subject to a man that mistreats us. That’s not what we are, that’s not who we are. We are intelligent, beautiful, and successful and mainstream society needs to get with the program.
There is this picture of a little boy rubbing the head of former (cries) President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. The boy can’t be any older than 2 or 3 rubbing the head of the President, comparing it to his own. It is important that we see ourselves in positive ways and unfortunately the media plays a huge role in how we are portrayed. If we constantly see black women as the help or broken then we will believe it, if we constantly log into social media that tells us that this shade of skin is beautiful and this type of body is the one desirable, we will begin to believe it.