Poor Walmart. Yes, you read that right: the Crunchy Con officially feels sorry for Walmart this afternoon. Why? This nonsense:
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 Theresa dolls hanging side by side at an unidentified store. The Theresa dolls, which feature brown skin and dark hair, are marked as being on sale at $3.00. The Barbies to the right of the Theresa dolls, meanwhile, retain their original price of $5.93. The dolls look identical aside from their color.
Walmart explained that this was purely an economic decision. Customers weren’t buying the Theresa dolls, so the retailer did what retailers do when they can’t move the merchandise: they discount it, hoping to attract customers.
That’s not good enough for some. More from the story:
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.
“While it’s clear that’s not what was intended, sometimes these things have collateral damage,” Dye said.
Other experts agree. Walmart could have decided “that it’s really important that we as a company don’t send a message that we value blackness less than whiteness,” said Lisa Wade, an assistant sociology professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the founder of the blog Sociological Images.
So Walmart has to pay for society’s supposed sins by eating $3.00 per Theresa doll — which comparatively few customers want — so people won’t think that the public values white dolls over black dolls? This, even though academic studies show that for whatever reason, a surprising number of black children prefer to play with white dolls?
Seriously, it’s heartbreaking that any black child would think that the whiteness of a person’s or a doll’s skin makes them more beautiful or worthy. That is a problem we have to work on as a society. But forcing Walmart, or any retailer, to ignore what their customers are telling them in order to preserve a moralistic fiction is not the way to go. Faulting Walmart’s discounting policy here is a good way to convince retailers not to stock any black dolls at all, for fear that they won’t be able to treat those products like any other and discount them if they don’t sell, on pain of being called racially insensitive.
The ironies in this story are amazing to contemplate.