This last Christmas, the one present my little Kjersti truly wanted was a Little Mommy Gotta Go
doll. Valkyrie and I, being the procrastinators we are, didn't get around to hunting for one (without Kjersti present) until just a few days before Christmas.
At the absolute last minute, I go to the local Toys-R-Us, and spend quite some time combing through the store looking for a couple of last minute items for the kids. I find a very nice stuffed dog for Corwin, and a few things for Kjersti, but I am having a very hard time finding the one doll my little girl absolutely wants.
Finally, I go over the shelf where this doll should be, very carefully. And I finally find one! Only, it's this one: Little Mommy Gotta Go Hispanic
. I say to myself, "OK ... this only speaks Spanish, but it's marginally better than no doll at all." And I look a little more.
Then I find this: Little Mommy Gotta Go African American
. I look at the two dolls ... and my choice is clear. It's better to get my little girl a doll that's close to what she's seen before and is expecting, and it's better to get her the one that speaks English.
So I go home, show Valkyrie the doll, and we wrap it up and put it under the tree. All along, my mind is buzzing, awash in the cultural stereotypes this country has shoved into my head - the white doll is for white girls, the black doll is for black girls, the brown doll for the hispanics ... and my little girl will reject the doll as not being like her.
I've tried to take a very light hand on the subject of race with my kids, and not make an issue of it. Also, I try to teach by example, in dealing with everyone around me with the same degree of respect and courtesy. I just hope this wears off on them somehow.
So we go into Christmas morning, and I'm fretting as to how Kjersti will react to the doll. She has some hint as to what this package is, and eagerly opens it. I tense in fear that she will reject the present.
I shouldn't have worried. The wrapping came off, and her gasp of joy, and squeals of delight were instant and unrestrained. This present was Exactly What She Wanted, and she was thrilled with it. I mean, just look at that picture there - what an expression of love and contentment. I felt relief and pride - my little girl got exactly the doll she wanted, and failed to make an issue out of the skin color being different from hers.
I've been mulling over this episode in my mind for most of this last year. This year seems to be a somewhat important point in the evolution of what race means to people in this country, and what being an American is. This episode says something about were all of us are - including the corporate machine that made three different dolls, targeted at different races; about me; and hopefully - a positive light about how our children will see race.