Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How much is your Barbie worth? Depends on if it's black or white...

(photo from

Wal-mart has been getting alot of attention for a photo captured by one website showing the store selling a black Barbie doll on clearance while its white counterpart was marked as regular price. A rep for the Louisiana store commented that in order to make room for their spring inventory, Wal-mart had to mark many items on clearance to create greater demand for them.

One Chicago radio DJ was clearly incensed over Wal-mart's move. He could not believe that there would be a low demand for black Barbies at Walmart. "Are there no Black families who go to Wal-mart to buy dolls for their daughters?"

Well, that is a good question.

Families obviously buy dolls for their children, but how many buy dolls that "look" like their child? Being Indian-American child of the 90's, I only had white dolls. The only doll that remotely related to me was the special edition Indian Barbie that was dressed up in a Sari. Other than that, there was no barbie that "looked" like me or even "dressed" like me. The toy stores only provided two options back then...Blonde or Black...and I consistently chose blonde. I grew up thinking the standard of beauty was my cherub-faced, blond-haired, and light skinned Barbie (or Cabbage Patch Kid or Polly Pocket). I would shy away from the ebony-skinned, curly-hair African-American dolls simply because I thought that only black people had "black" dolls...and I surely wasn't black. But I wasn't white either...

Today, kids can buys dolls that come from a variety of flavors and colors and ethnicities (i.e. the American Doll Store--although it's really not accessible to most people). So why is this black Barbie doll on clearance and why is its white counterpart not? Is there really no demand for this particular doll? Or when it comes to playthings, are white dolls really supreme?

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