Black Slavery, the New Toy

by f.viau on October 16, 2015 - 11:48am

 

In the article “Playmobil says ‘racist’ toy is meant to be a pirate who is a former slave” by Aisha Gani written on October 8th 2015, it discusses an incident where a family bought a Playmobil pirate ship set for her nephew and upon building it they found what they believe to be a racist toy. This toy in question is obviously meant to portray a black male. It has torn clothing, no shoes and the instructions that came with the toy instructed to place a grey choker like piece around it’s neck. Playmobil responded that it was intended to represent a pirate who was a former slave in an historical context. The president of the Sacramento branch of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came out to say that this was unacceptable and that action had to be taken.

In the history of the United States it can not be hidden that Africans were used as slaves and although it may seem inappropriate it educates young children about the important history that formed their country. In my opinion, Playmobil did not intend to offend anybody with this toy and was meant to be more of an educational purpose. Of course if young children see this, they will associate black individuals as slaves because of the choke collar the came with the toy and was mentioned in the instructions. There comes the part where parents need to be present to teach their kids that black people are the same as all the other races but that the toy is meant to show a part of the history of the country and that even if we want to forget all the slavery that happened, we can not and must teach our kids that it happened but should not happen again. In the article “Children are not colorblind” by Erin N. Wrinkler, she argues that children are aware of race and that the only way to prevent them from misunderstanding race and create their own prejudices is to talk to them about it. This links to the main article in the sense that the mother who complained to Playmobil should talk to her son about this toy and let him know that yes this happens in life and she should be the mentor for this child and show him that he should be aware and not continue this racism that already exists.

To conclude, I believe that Playmobil should continue making toys that are a bit controversial but maybe remove some items like the neck collar because this pushes the limits a bit too much. Parents should be mentors for their children and if toys show them racism or discrimination at a young age, this is the perfect time in their learning development to teach them that this is wrong but that they will still be faced to it in life. I agree with the NAACP to remove this from the shelves and that this toy was not conform to a toy that should be presented to children under the age of 12.

 

Gani, A, (2015). Playmobil says ‘racist’ toy is meant to be a pirate who is a former slave. Retrieved October 16th 2015.http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/08/playmobil-racist-toy-pira...

Comments

I was very intrigued by the title of your article, and therefore decided to read it. I was surprised to learn that a child toys’ company would put on the market a figurine portraying a black slave, and that it would even have a choke collar as an accessory. I understand Playmobil’s argument that the toy was merely for an educative purpose, however I cannot help but think the company only used it as an excuse to not lose face and to avert the “racist” label. Indeed, when were Playmobils ever meant to educate children, and of all things, why a former-pirate-black-slave?

Now, I strongly agree that parents should definitely address the topic of racism at a young age, despite the belief they are “too young” to talk about serious issues. Indeed, since children develop racial bias very early on, it is important to inform them to prevent misconceptions about race.

I believe children should know that slavery is deeply anchored in our history, but a toy seems like an insensitive way to aboard the subject. Slavery is not something we should play with, and making a toy out of it seems to undermine all of its atrocities. Playmobil should definitely remove the toy, and even apologize to the concerned people. The fact that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People flag this toy as unacceptable should make us realize it is not the way to teach children about racism.

Of course, Playmobil should present ethnical diversity to make children aware of other “races.” However, like you mentioned, portraying black people as slaves could instead reinforce negative stereotypes, which should not be tolerated.

It is easy to see this event like a “mistake” or a “lack of judgment” and believe Playmobil had good intentions, but if you are the targeted group, it is a whole other story. Maybe this event would create a lot more controversy if the toy would instead portray a white slave, or something considered offensive for white people.

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