The news is getting old now, but the controversy continues to be discussed throughout cyberspace, in newspapers and numerous web sites, including Snopes: earlier this month, Costco Wholesale Corp. pulled from their stores African-American dolls that were deemed to be racially insensitive.
And for understandable reasons. These African-American baby dolls, called "Cuddle with Me," were packaged with stuffed monkeys and wearing a hat that read, "Lil' Monkey."
Recently, a Boston policeman made news for calling a prominent African-American Harvard professor a "banana-eating jungle monkey." It's an ugly racial slur that is, unfortunately, still going strong in certain circles.
Anyway, in this case, it seems like it was just a matter of not thinking things through, than anyone intending to offend people. There were other versions of the doll with the "Lil Monkey" hat, including a Caucasian version, and certainly many parents have referred to their young, climbing, crazy little kids as monkeys.
To its credit, Costco pulled the offending item off the shelves as soon as a customer complained. A vice president later made the statement that the store takes full responsibility for putting the dolls on the shelves, and he said that he has "expressed our regrets that this did have the tendency to offend some folks."
The CEO, Mary Gustaff, of the company that made the dolls put it even better, saying to the press: "It's so unfortunate because now it's being portrayed as a purposeful act to be disrespectful and that's not true. We really apologize. We don't think in that way. We don't operate in that kind of thinking. We really have a diverse family-operated company that's been around for 28 years. What would we have to gain for heaven's sake?"
Indeed. What would they have to gain? Maybe it's a sign of the times, a good sign, that so many people in the process of getting this doll on shelves -- from the toy designer to the person stocking the shelves -- didn't notice that the doll could be taken as a racial insult? As in, they never use the slur, never think about the slur, didn't notice that it could be taken that way? At least, that's my hope. But the store did the right thing in taking the toy down so quickly. The last thing one needs is a bunch of racists -- and we know they're out there -- buying these dolls and somehow using them to spread their message of hate.
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