On a recent trip to buy some gifts for my own and other children for Christmas, I decided to venture to the beads-and-bracelets-and-shit aisle of a Toys R Us near my home. This is my go-to aisle when I need a random gift for my daughter or her classmates when we’re on the way to a birthday party. My daughter in particular loves creating and crafting and enjoys those box sets with 10,000 beads or glitter or glue and stuff that lets you affix stuff to other stuff.
On this day, I was looking for a Christmas gift for a family friend’s daughter. I knew just where to go. And then, when I got there, I had a rush of political wokeness and struggled mightily to find something to get for her. You see, on almost every single package in my go-to aisle—we’re talking, like, 98 percent—was a picture of a little white girl.
A quick demographic lesson about where this particular Toys R Us is located: Springfield, Va., is a suburb of Washington, D.C., that is roughly 48 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian and 9 percent black. So while there are a lot of white people who patronize this store, there are ALSO a ton of ethnic minorities who do as well. Yet if any of us nonwhite people want to pick up a toy of this variety from this location, we literally have to gift our colored children something with white girls all over it playing and having a blast.
Granted, I don’t think our children think about these things the way we do. I’m sure they only care about the ability to play with toys. At least while they’re little. My own daughter is definitely starting to pay attention to race a lot more, and she’s 8 going on 9. As we all know, representation matters, and one day my daughter is absolutely going to ask why none of the girls on the packages look like her. She will have an absolutely legitimate question.
Further, in 2017 in particular, being woke is not only an adventure; it’s a way of life. So when I saw an entire aisle of gifts and crafts, my immediate response was, how is this even a thing right now? Who in the hell did this and didn’t notice ANYTHING amiss? How is it that this store in a racially diverse area where the vast majority of the employees and staff aren’t even white has so much whiteness woven into the marketing and promotion of so many items? Of course I know the answer, but seriously, companies, you’ve got to do better. How? Glad you asked.
Why not have SEVERAL OPTIONS of the same packaging of each item, so much so that when they ship, you get a bunch of packages with different representations? They show up at the store and all the kids look different. If I want to buy something with a child who is not white, I can do so. Or, at the very least, they’re not ALL white everything on EACH package.
The stores themselves should also do a better job of stocking the shelves with more-representative packaging and marketing items. Because I assure you that I’m not the only parent who has groaned or been supremely frustrated by the fact that I’m about to hand my child a gift or several gifts with kids who don’t look anything like them. I realize there are still tons of people who don’t realize what’s wrong with this, but there should be people in their offices who are now aware that “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t ONLY be marketing to white people.”
I’m also wondering how nobody at Toys R Us saw anything wrong with this when stocking the shelves. How do you NOT notice? I did a walk-through and counted one perhaps-white but maybe racially ambiguous child on one package, and one package with an Asian child on it. It was the FIRST thing that jumped out at me. Perhaps I’m hypersensitive to this (possible), but it also was a noticeable thing if you paid attention for more than two seconds.
While I assume that companies are slowly making strides to realize just how important it is to make sure that they’re not alienating a customer base, I also know they assume that their bread is only buttered in one place. But as we all manage to be more active and focused on ensuring a more equitable experience for those of us long treated unfairly, those companies will find themselves on the ass end of progress AND profits.
For now, I didn’t buy any of that shit I saw. I just went to find something that didn’t have any children represented—another option—so that I didn’t have to hand a child being raised to be very pro-black some image of a blond white kid playing with the toy that she’s looking forward to using. That matters to me, and I know it matters to a lot of parents.
So to those companies that don’t seem to notice that WE notice? Yeah, we do. Do better. Our children matter, too.