Shopper forces recall of offensive doll

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Time was when Black women’s advocates, remembering their childhoods playing with alabaster-faced dolls, complained that toymakers were not making any Black dolls.

Doll makers eventually gave Barbie African-American friends and soon followed suit with unique Black fashion dolls and baby dolls that opened and closed their eyes, cried, drank, spoke and even wet just like White dolls.

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STUNNED—John Taylor holds a “Lil’ Monkey” doll outside the Greensboro, N.C., Costco, where he purchased it in early August.

Recently, however, one such doll maker followed this path into the realm of racial stereotype, when in early August, a Black version of the “Cuddle with Me” doll arrived at the Costco store in Greensboro, N.C.  Like the White dolls, this one came with a pet animal. But unlike the White dolls, the Black one came with a pet monkey—and the doll wore a bonnet with stitching that read, “Lil’ Monkey.”

When John Taylor saw these dolls on the shelves he took action. Photographing the doll and informing other African-American shoppers, he generated a chain letter leading to multiple demands for the store to pull the doll from the shelves. The store immediately complied and relayed the problem to corporate offices, which issued a recall and an immediate apology.

“We offer our sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the product,” said Arthur Jackson, Costco vice president of general administration. “That was surely never our intent.”

Costco purchased the dolls from a Washington-based company called BrassKey Keepsakes, which, according to its website, began business in 1980 as an importer of brass beds from Asia. Sisters Mary and Judy Gustaff morphed into a collectibles company specializing in limited-run porcelain dolls such as the Disney Princess line.

Company CEO Mary Gustaff told the Greensboro FOX News affiliate she was oblivious to the offensive nature of the “Lil’ Monkey dolls.

“We don’t think in that way. We don’t operate in that kind of thinking,” she said. “We have a really diverse family-operated company that’s been around for 28 years. What would we have to gain for heaven’s sake?”

The manager of the Greensboro Costco said the store carried both White and Black dolls with monkeys, but when FOX 8 aired the story Aug. 13, the only White dolls still in the store were those packaged with panda bears. They wear bonnets reading “Pretty Panda.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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