When I was shopping with Samantha for her Barbie doll this weekend, she initially picked out a bride Barbie that was blue eyed and blonde. My gut response to the blonde Barbie was to find the same Barbie with brown skin and see if she would prefer the brown Barbie to the blonde Barbie. I did find an African American Bride Barbie and she got that one. When I look around our house, I see that most of her dolls are brown skinned: Latina, African American, Asian. The white dolls we have, when I think about it, were mostly given to her by her Japanese relatives, while the brown dolls were given to her mostly by her white relatives.
It got me thinking why it bothered me that she would pick out a blonde Barbie. Is it really a hang up I have? Does the race of the dolls really make a difference? And isn’t kind of funny that her white relatives tend to buy her brown dolls and her Asian relatives tend to buy her white dolls? Why is that?
Is it, that when we see her, we pick out the differences from ourselves instead of the similarities. Her skin is darker than mine, so does my mind make her identity more Asian than white? Do her Japanese relatives look at her and see lighter skin than theirs and therefore identify her more with her white heritage? And then we all buy the dolls that we think look the most like her?
Will she, as I’ve read about people who are half white, half African American, not really be accepted by either race as she grows up? Too white to be Asian, too Asian to be white, and therefore be an outsider her whole life, not really fitting in anywhere?
Am I not as color blind as I thought? I married outside of my race and truly believe skin color is not important and does not make a person who they are anymore than hair color does. Or do I not believe that, deep down. Do I really believe that your identity, who you are, is somehow linked to your skin color?
In actuality, I think the color of the doll’s skin bothered me because I know she chose the blonde Bride Barbie because she thought she was prettiest. I know that because that’s how I chose my dolls growing up. And the Bride Barbie was pretty. She had a beautiful white gown with ruching on the bodice, spaghetti straps tied halter style around the neck, a flowing skirt with a glittered, lacy overlay, with a hot pink ribbon around her waist and matching, strappy hot pink high heels. She wore a veil over her hair, diamond earrings, and a gigantic diamond ring that gleamed from the box.
But when she came with the blonde doll, I thought, is that Samantha’s idea of pretty? Does she think blue-eyed and blonde is the prettiest Barbie? Does she not think the brown Barbie is pretty? The one, that in my mind, looks the most like her. I want her to grow up with a positive self image and feel pretty and I do believe the dolls she chooses can be a reflection of that.
When offered both dolls, she did choose the darker one. But, maybe she only chose it because she knew that was the one I was hoping she would pick. Maybe she only chose the blonde Barbie in the first place because it was displayed along the main aisle at her eye level, while the brown Barbie was in the Barbie aisle, over her head (which is a completely different issue I won’t address here). Maybe, she didn’t really notice the skin color, and she was just picking the most beautiful dress she saw. I hope so.