I have a quiet, cool Cramer Hill morning to write my blog and I’m looking through the photos in my cell phone. Most pictures feature my cats, my dog and my granddaughter–not in that order! However, I found a funny one that I took on impulse–my almost seventeen-month-old granddaughter’s doll.
Here’s the story behind it. Nora was playing with a paper towel roll (again…) and I started to play with it and look through it at her and to talk through it. I made funny noises through it. Okay, I know I’m sixty-six, but I’m not too old to be goofy, am I?
Then, I tried to take a picture of my beautiful granddaughter through it, but she moved too quickly. I loved the idea of doing it, though, and I took a picture of her favorite doll, Da, with it.
I had ordered Da online and felt lucky to find a quality baby doll that had Asian features. Not so long ago, it was almost impossible to find dolls that didn’t have Caucasian features. Asian dolls were mostly those in traditional costumes and were so dressy that you’d want to put them in glass boxes to preserve them.
Back in the eighties when my daughter was little, I did find one Asian doll for her. (My daughter is Asian-American.) She wasn’t much interested in dolls. She combed its hair until it looked scary and put it in her toy box at the babysitter’s house. She liked her stuffed animals and action figures.
When my granddaughter plays with Da, I remember how hard it was to find an Asian doll. I remember that there were few people on TV or in movies who were Asian. There weren’t even many storybooks with Asian faces.
“Minority” faces were scarce everywhere. The crazy thing is that no one I know commented on it. Maybe they didn’t notice it. Why?
The first time that I taught English as a Second Language in Camden in an elementary school in a hallway before the State of New Jersey saw me teaching in a hallway, many of my morning students were from Haiti. I wanted to teach words about people and I bought a bunch of popular news magazines and women’s magazines to cut out pictures of people so the kids could make collages.
I had to go back and buy magazines targeted for African-Americans because none of the others had pictures of people of color. All the people were white. Believe me. My Haitian students had dark skin. What was I saying to them if I didn’t find some other photos? I bought Jet and Ebony and cut out pictures from those magazines, too. Later, I’d have to subscribe to the few magazines targeted for the Asian and Hispanic market just so I could have pictures to make collages.
My mentor walked by and watched the students make collages with the pictures, naming them–a mother, a father, a grandmother, etc. “Where did you get those photos of black people?” she said. She was black.
“I bought Jet and Ebony,” I told her.
She was surprised and pleased.
However, I shouldn’t have had to remember that she was surprised and pleased. Why were people of color not included in those other magazines, too? No people of color were newsworthy, beautiful or consumers?
Dolls, magazines, TV, movies, storybooks….you could go on and on… Huge numbers of people not represented… Maybe a bit more now, but often stereotyped and token…
I don’t want to be sad on this fine day. I meant to write something funny about being a grandmom and dolls. But, hey.
Love to my readers,
Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra