There’s nothing like a cultural cue that you’re on markdown. Some things never change; or rather, change comes very slowly in some places.
Walmart is raising eyebrows after cutting the price of a black Barbie doll to nearly half of that of the doll’s white counterpart at one store and possibly others.
A photo first posted to the humor Web site FunnyJunk.com and later to the Latino Web site Guanabee.com shows packages of Mattel’s Ballerina Barbie and Ballerina Teresa dolls hanging side by side at an unidentified store. The Teresa dolls, which feature brown skin and dark hair, are marked as being on sale at $3.00. The Barbies to the right of the Teresa dolls, meanwhile, retain their original price of $5.93. The dolls look identical aside from their color.
…”To prepare for (s)pring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said in an e-mail. “… Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.”
“Pricing like items differently is a part of inventory management in retailing,” O’Brien said.
But critics say Walmart should have been more sensitive in its pricing choice.
“The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said Thelma Dye, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, a Harlem, N.Y. organization founded by pioneering psychologists and segregation researchers Kenneth B. Clark and Marnie Phipps Clark.
Oh please. Why pussyfoot with the truth – our culture still tells us is that blacks are “less valuable” as a group on so many levels. Dye said that while there may not have been intentional racism at play, the result is that there is “collateral damage” in presenting imagery like this to kids. Huh? For years, children, even those of color, reliably picked the white doll as the preferred one. The 1940s study was performed by the above-mentioned Clark couple.
They asked black children about two dolls, one white and one black.
The majority — 63 percent of them — said they’d rather play with the white doll. Most said the white doll was nicer than the black doll and in the most poignant answer of all, 44 percent of the black children said the white doll looked most like them. “[It was] groundbreaking in that it sort of changed the way we look at race relations,” Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson said. “Here are kids who felt that [...] being white was more beautiful than black. And that’s pretty devastating.”
That there is improvement in how kids make choices about dolls and color (see the results of ABC’s update of the original experiment) does not mean we’re a “post-racial” society by any stretch of the imagination.
Some of our results differed vastly from those of the original experiment. For example, 88 percent of our children happily identified with the dark-skinned doll.
Forty-two percent of the children wanted to play with the black doll compared to 32 percent for the white doll.
But in this Wal-mart case, the facts speak for themselves with the sales of the doll. It seems disingenuous to keep the prices equal in order to spare guilt-ridden people from the truth or consumers who feel uncomfortable with the thought that children still pick the white doll more often than not. Why sugar-coat this by keeping the prices at parity? How about customers asking your child which doll they prefer, and discuss it in terms they can understand?
What do you think?