When my daughter and I walked into Kmart yesterday, I prayed she wouldn’t notice the enormous Barbie display by the front door. But of course she did.
“Can we look at the Barbies? Pleeeeeeeeeease?” E jumped up and down with excitement.
I reminded myself to be patient as we walked to the display. I’m not sure what Kmart is gearing up for, but they don’t have this much Barbie stuff at Christmas time.
E peered inside every box and proceeded to give me a list of what she wanted for her birthday. A mermaid. A horse. A new corvette.
I squinted at the display. Something was off about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. When it finally came to me, I commented before I could catch myself.
“Where are the brown dolls?”
In a full aisle of merchandise, all I saw was blond Barbie.
“Isn’t she brown?” E pointed to a mermaid on the top row.
I followed E’s finger to the doll. She had dark hair, but her complexion was pale.
“No,” I sighed. “She’s not. Let’s go.”
“Mom, I need more white dolls.” E declared this as we walked to our car.
“You do?” I asked. E has a diverse group of dolls at home. “Why?”
“The white ones are prettier.”
“WHAT? Who told you that?” I didn’t catch my anger in time. E was frowning.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “They just are.”
“Don’t you think brown people are pretty? What about me? You don’t think I’m pretty?”
“Yeah, but you’re light.”
I was confused. “Do you think you’re pretty?”
“No.” E started to cry.
My heart broke.
There are more things wrong here than I have time to write about. My daughter and I are the exact same complexion, and she is absolutely beautiful. She has big brown eyes with lashes that women pay good money to replicate, a killer smile, and a personality that makes it all the better.
Who in the hell told my baby she wasn’t pretty? And who told her that brown wasn’t beautiful?
I started thinking about what she watches on TV. Dora the Explorer. Ni Hao Kai-Lan. Hannah Montana. Suite Life of Zach and Cody.
The characters of color are cartoons.
I pledged in that instant to do a better job of showing my daughter real-life beauty in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I’m renewing my subscription to Essence. I’m on the lookout for TV programs that showcase more diversity. Brandy on Dancing with the Stars was all I had that night, but it was a start.