Mr. SillyPants and I were party shopping at Costco – picking up some wine and a few other party items for our big bash (more in another post – after I’m done with this pissed off post) when we hit the kid aisle. He wanted to show me some of Blue’s favorite things at Costco (yes, it’s a weekly stop’n’shop; can’t beat the price on organic milk and cream for our coffee). One item was a sorta cool “Diego” crane set. Blue doesn’t watch much TV, so the Diego piece, featuring “Diego”, wouldn’t be a ringer for him. But he likes tools/mechanic/things for pretend play and construction.
Next to the Diego crane set were hundreds of Tonka toy vehicles – hundreds, I tell you. Cool sirens, lifting ladders, rotating helicopter blades, and an accompanying action figure for each themed vehicle. HOLD ON! You know what? EVERY SINGLE ACTION FIGURE WAS WHITE. And come to think of it, EVERY SINGLE ACTION FIGURE WAS MALE.
WHITE MEN – – I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!
You know where I’m going with this, right? And you have the good sense not to tell me “you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill”, right? Because, yeah, I’m not overreacting. And I’m not in the mood for, “you’re being PC” or “it’s not like it’s intentional or something like that” or “kids don’t see color so young.” If that’s where you are – you’ve got some learnin’ to do – and I’m gonna ask you to go and do it…NOW.
hell is wrong with our toy makers? I greedily looked at these $20 machines, figuring they’d be a HUGE hit with my boy – and we could call it a holiday. But no, instead, the delight in the bargain Costco moment was RUINED by yet another example of the underepresentation of people of color EVERY FUCKIN WHERE. I told you this was a Tonka Tantrum, right? I get to cuss.
Here’s the thing – I’ve already raised 3 kids. I have raised 3 pretty awesome, connected, tuned-in kids. They are kids who grew up with lots of cultural exposure, lots of gender bending opportunities, and with pretty ‘aware’ parents; we kept lots of different types of literature in the house, had all kinds of dolls, avoided a lot of junk culture, had friends in neighborhoods all over the city,
blah blah blah etc, etc, etc….I’m a cultural anthropologist for crying out loud. I’m in a constant state of cultural critique. I kept a pretty keen eye on raising white kids with an awareness of privilege and power and with an interest in social justice and racial justice. I’ve been a parent for 22 years – I’ve made this sort of work important. I’ve had ‘tantrums’ before. But not like this. Nope. Not at every single freakin’ turn. It sucks for our family. It sucks even more for our son.
Let me tell you, looking for the image of my beautiful brown hued boy in the world really brings it. Blue brings it home. BIG time. I’m not intending for him to be my personal ‘object lesson’ – and I know the the dangers of presenting that phenomenon; as in – ‘white mom gets racial injustice when she becomes parent to black son’. And yet,as my friend wrote this morning, “this is the messy business of inequality.”
I don’t have any perfectly constructed words – I’m having a freakin’ TANTRUM.
Tonka, my kid and ALL OF OUR BLACK KIDS need to see themselves in our toys. I’m pissed. I am mightily pissed that I am NOT seeing his perfect little face looking back at us on our well stocked toy shelves, in our magazines, on our televisions shows, in our literature, in the histories our schools teach…..
I know y’all know what I’m talking about. It’s worth caring about. I’m joining the voices of families of color and their allies who have been arguing for so long – ’til they are breathless with effort while still suffocated by elite white privilege. This is worth caring about for all of our children. Every single one of them.
NOT end of rant…I’m certain.
What are you finding on the shelves out there?