To Whom It May Concern,
After all of the recent controversy over a silly photo that was taken of my friend Barbie and me, I've decided it's time to speak up. We were hanging at Walmart last week when somebody decided to snap our picture. I'm not sure if it was paparazzi or a soccer mom or what—but that photo ended up all over the Internet.
Apparently, a lot of people were angry at the fact that I was being sold for almost half the price of Barbie. People wondered if it was some type of statement about the way African-American women are valued in this country as compared to white women. Especially white women with huge breasts, tiny waists and blonde hair.
I have to say, it does hurt a little—realizing that instead of gracing the shelves of FAO Schwarz or something, I've ended up half price at a Louisiana Walmart, of all places. I wanted to smack that disgruntled employee who came by and slapped a red discount sticker on my box. I'm worth just as much as the chick hanging next to me. Some might even say more.
But what hurts me the most is being carted down the aisle, hung up for display, and passed over time and time again by little black girls who would rather have a doll with blonde hair and blue eyes than one who looks more like them.
Just the other day, AKA Centennial Barbie and 50th Anniversary Alvin Ailey Barbie were telling me there might be a reason why "certain" dolls stay on the shelves longer than others. Ailey Barbie said that more than 40 years ago, a sociological experiment was conducted to determine if black children would rather have a doll like me, than one with pink skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. Sadly, two-thirds chose the white doll.
Then Soror Barbie shook her head sadly and said that just a couple of years ago, that same study was repeated—proving that nothing's really changed. Even with African-American Miss Americas and movie stars, among the preschool and elementary school set, Halle Berry's look is still less popular than Hannah Montana's.
With the onslaught of media images that celebrate a European beauty standard, I guess I should have known that Barbie would always command the most attention from people of all races. A couple of aisles over, they're selling hair relaxers for little girls! So I guess it should come as little surprise that there are still some brown girls and their mothers who see Barbie's type of beauty as being something more superior to their own.
So instead of calling Al Sharpton and lining up around the nearest Walmart with picket signs, I hope people will look at what's really going on here. I've fallen victim to a very sad case of supply and demand, with roots far deeper than most people will even admit.
Ballerina Teresa, Barbie's black "friend"
P.S. And for the record—I might be smiling, but I can't stand being here. No one speaks to me. The shelves are dusty. The people are rude. And I'm terrified of ending up in a landfill somewhere. So please—come and get me while I'm (kind of) hot.
Meera Bowman-Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.
Now what do you suppose would be on Black Barbie's MP3 playlist? Check out The Root's Favorite Femake Anthems….