Ok hold up. Before everyone gets their knives out after looking at the image above just wait……take a deep breath…..and calm down. We took this picture whilst in a shop in Abuja, Nigeria. The scene surprisingly isn’t that uncommon in Nigeria and I’m sure many other African countries. But this was the first time I had seen this in a major nationwide shopping chain. Usually I see it in small toy shops. However, seeing an aisle in a major shop in the capital of the largest black nation full of white dolls just made me stop for a second.
I don’t want to rehash the usual arguments, mudslinging and conspiracy theories that usually surround the issue of black girls buying only white dolls. Also most of us know the dire negative effects of maintaining the status quo. We know how we arrived at this situation. With all that said, I think it is time to move on. I do not say that in a flippant way. It is just that continuously talking about it in passionate, racially loaded terms is bearing little or no results on ground. I am not interested in blaming the companies that are distributing the white dolls or making them. That is wrong and pointless. This is not about not having white dolls available in Nigeria. I want children to have a choice. I want to make that clear.
What do we do about it? That is the important thing. I want to know how to solve the problem and why it isn’t being solved. I’m now going to speak for Nigeria as that is where we are based. Our country has its issues. We are all aware of them. But according to statistics, it has a growing economy even though the trickle-down effect doesn’t seem to be happening as it should. But that’s another topic for another time. We import so much it is ridiculous. From refined fuel, tomato puree through to toothpicks and matches! Many of our textiles that we use for our traditional clothes are manufactured by foreign companies in Asia and Europe. Our country is the number 1 importer globally of some of these products. So even with the current situation in the country, Nigerian consumers have quite a large capacity for demand.
This leads me to ask this question. Why isn’t there demand for black dolls in Nigeria? Many will say the answer is linked to colonialism and proliferation of ‘Western’ media imagery. I would agree to an extent. But for me that is an excuse now. It is time to look at what WE are doing to contribute to the problem. Instead of pointing fingers outward look inward.
Nigerian music is getting big across the world, Nollywood and is out there making waves. Artists like D’Banj, P Square and Tuface are extremely successful at home and abroad. Corporate entities can pay up to 5M Naira (roughly $30,000) for a table at one of D’Banj’s concerts. So you can’t say there is no demand for Nigerian entertainment/cultural products by Nigerians themselves. That is despite the prevalence ‘Western’ media networks.
This leads me back to my original question. Why isn’t there a demand for black dolls in Nigeria? Is there some kind of ‘blind spot’ when it comes to children? Honestly I don’t really care anymore and I’m not waiting to find out. The situation has to be changed. It is that simple. I am actually stunned and ashamed this is happening in the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’. This is something that should be easy to solve compared to the issues the country has.
One of the ways to change the situation is to offer parents viable alternatives. So when you go to the shops you actually have a choice of dolls/products to buy for your children. We were actually at the shop we took the picture of the girl at to see if we could have them distribute Bino and Fino DVDs. However the shopping chains are not charities. They are businesses. Trust me if there is a demand for black dolls in Nigeria, they WILL stock them.
Children deserve a wider choice of dolls and toys that represent them. So let’s stop arguing, endlessly talking and create the change we want to see. Produce, distribute, buy and support. Repeat the process.