Thursday, February 5, 2009

We are All in this Together

Dear Mr. Rich:

That was certainly an excellent article (NYT-OpED-Feb.1 09) For far too long Republicans have been allowed to languish in the bowel of the bully-pit; consistently demanding of others what they refuse to demand or offer of themselves.

But like any other abusive partner who needs help but refuses to acknowledge their own cowardice, weaknesses and ineptitude to deal with their dysfunction, they choose to spiral downward into the abyss of delusion; most often taking innocent bystanders with them.

The Republicans should be called not the Grand Old Party, but the PABS – Party of All Being Stuck. The decision to make a decision that derides an intelligent decision just is not an informed decision. Did that make any sense? Neither does the House Republicans decision to reject the Stimulus package before the President and it arrived. What better example of digging in one’s heels “just because” could this ever be?

As has been noted, no one expects the Republicans to agree on everything that the Democrats bring to the table – because we all know that the Dems too have some dysfunctional issues and we know that to keep it real, there should always be intelligent dissent – that’s intelligent dissent. However, it seems as if the Republicans cannot move beyond their ego-driven pettiness and their need to kiss the ring of Rush.

Who besides the President and some of the more intelligent Op-Ed columnists such as yourself really care about changing how the “inside” of Washington works. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, there were about 53% of Americans who voted for some of that change. Maybe the Republicans (the new dying party) can choose to stop insulting Americans intelligence by posturing and choosing those individuals for leadership roles for whom just a year ago they would never have chosen; Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and now former lieutenant governor of Maryland, African American Michael Steele, as the new RNC chair. Is he supposed to be their Republican answer to President Barack Obama?

Somehow the real leadership (whoever that is) of the Republican Party has not learned from their mistakes. Placing Steele in that role does not mean that African Americans are now going to flock to the party of Lincoln. Too much else has to change and that “change” begins with the Republicans moving from group think and party line responses to sincerely addressing those issues that mean the most to Americans – like “How am I going to feed my family and where are we going to live?”

But I digress. Mr. Rich, your analysis and articulation of the Republican Party and where we all stand is both profound and prescient. Our country is in a crisis. I know this from an empirical standpoint inasmuch as I am awaiting my unemployment extension to begin, (I still have not found a job).

I am literally on the verge of being evicted from an apartment that I have lived in for the past twelve years and I am now forced to relocate away from my family (grandchildren) and friends in order to survive. I so appreciate your tenacity and due-diligence in keeping this very salient fact front and center, regarding how the Republicans refuse to at least come up with a real idea as to what we can do to turnaround our economy’s downward spiral. It is disingenuous for them to stand on the only premise that they have forever touted as the panacea of our economy’s ills – tax cuts for the rich and for corporations. It is incumbent upon them to role up their sleeves and sincerely explores all of the other vital essentials involved in stimulating our country’s economy.

We are all in this together. We’ll either all rise up in success together or wither away and shrink into failure – together; it’s up to us all.
President Obama as the latest Chia Pet. . .What?

Recently, a non-customer of decided to take it upon himself to shut-down, a multicultural online toy store.

This gentleman was incensed that the CEO of the company, Denise Gary Robinson, would endorse and sell dolls produced by the Ty Doll Company – the company responsible for producing the Beanie Babies and other popular iconic dolls. He considered such a pronouncement as sacrilegious, disgraceful and exploitative of Malia and Sasha Obama.

With this thinking, a firestorm of emails both pro and con concerning whether or not the girls are being exploited by this company arrived in the inbox of customer service department. To add to this brewing firestorm was First Lady Michele Obama’s statement that she too felt that her girls were being exploited. Mrs. Robinson immediately responded to the gentleman and articulated her position on the subject; however, again she was met with his unwavering hostility. No explanation was good enough for this individual – his objective remained steadfast – the boycotting of

For the past three years, has been the oasis in a multi-cultural desert and has consistently offered an extensive selection of toys and dolls of color for multi-cultural children in addition to offering essential information for adoptive parents trying to understand the cultural nuances of their children. receives on a daily basis, the gratitude of parents from around the world whom are not able to find either the products or information provided by to address their children’s particular cultural needs. DLM is not a Web site or business that is even remotely worthy of such negative actions in response to the Malia and Sasha dolls.

Mrs. Robinson was not driven by the bottom line in her creation of her online multicultural toy store; she is driven by a greater cultural-psychological reality: that children of color – girls in particular – deserve to see themselves as positive role models that are worthy of respect and can be considered beautiful, just as are others, whom are considered the standard-bearers of American beauty.

I must admit that I take issue with any individual that would attempt to drive out of business a Black woman who is serving the multicultural community unlike any White retailer has ever thought necessary to do. Declaring war on a company that is the only one of its kind because of a decision to sell two adorable dolls that have the same names and not likenesses as the Obama daughters, is at its best intolerant and at its worst culturally counterproductive. Is this same anger and intolerance being aimed at Toys’R’ Us or any other of the many toy stores which will carry this doll? No, the primary target here is a woman whose toy company celebrates all children of color and whose sole objective is to make sure that these children in particular are consistently exposed to positive images of themselves; and that their parents have the option to purchase those items that will make positive imagery a sure possibility for their children.

I respect the gentleman’s right as well as others for being concerned about the Ty Company’s decision to use the Obama girls’ names in order to turn a fast buck. However, we live in a capitalistic society that unfortunately in its worst configuration, is based upon the exploitation of something or someone at any given time. Fortunately, not everyone is out to make a fast buck or to be exploitative. Sometimes the objective is bigger than what is obvious; sometimes the objective is to educate.

Notwithstanding all of the above, I now turn to the real reason for my thoughts for today. I can’t help but wonder if that same gentleman has decided to put out of business the owners of the Chia Pet company for its most disrespectful and outrageous unveiling of the latest Chia Pet – President Barack Obama. Not has there ever been such a deplorable and despicable example of visual disrespect for a sitting president in the United States. As a matter-of-fact, has there ever been a Chia Pet based on a human being before? This novelty item in and of itself, is too clear an example of how even the president of the United States can be relegated to inferior representations.

For some, what is stenciled into the United States Constitution still remains a validation for denigrating and diminishing a person of color’s character and achievements. President Barack Obama has done everything that America has asked of all Americans to do according to our constitution. This human being, President Barack Obama, has ascended to America’s highest office; yet, without foresight or the consideration of cultural correctness, President Obama is relegated to the status of a caricature – a happy or determined face (comes in these two styles) with an afro of greens growing out of its head. And like the Malia and Sasha-named dolls, it can be pre-ordered on in advance of its release on April 1 ( April Fool’s Day – what an appropriate date).

I would hope that the gentleman who wants to shut-down for its position on why the Malia and Sasha dolls are so important to America’s psyche, will have as much indignation with this kind of untenable disrespect for our sitting President. Let him take his outrage to the Web site of the mega online store,, to express to them how they too should not be allowed to remain in business because of the items that they carry and/or sell.

Finally I would ask the gentleman, to let there be no discrimination in your discernment of what really matters and for whom can legally engage in the American process of capitalism. I would ask the gentleman to let capitalistic freedom ring.
That Sasha and Malia Doll

Malia and Sasha walk out onto the inauguration platform in J. Crew clothing and soon thereafter the Web site crashes; after his inaugural speech, President Obama bends over to Sasha looking for approval and she gives him the thumbs-up – a picture that can now be juxtaposed to that of little Caroline Kennedy’s; at the pre-inaugural concert on the mall, President-elect Obama concludes his remarks and walks back to his sitting family where he asks Malia “How did I do?” “Good!” she responds with certainty and a bright smile. All of these moments and many more represent unforgettable and iconic positive images.

The Obama Family is America’s new First Family. They represent a new image of the Black family that is now being seared into the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world; images that speak to the demonstrative love of a Black man for his wife and for his daughters and ultimately, their love for him. These are images that are counteractive to the ones that we as a nation are accustomed to digesting and accepting as our collective reality. These images give us a very different view of Black men, Black women and Black children.

Without doubt, the Obamas have become American icons. And with iconoclasm comes love, adulation and yes, in some cases, exploitation. DollsLikeMe is not exploitative.

With the exception of the Huxtables who helped to change the negative perception of the Black family, Black people have never enjoyed this kind of imagery; however, the Huxtables impact in no way equals that of the first African American First Family. To many African Americans, the Obama family is the same family that they grew up in. For others, they represent something that they never knew existed.

We at DollsLikeMe fully understand the importance of imagery and images – especially to the psyche of Black children. We also understand that for far too long Black children and children of color have not had enough tangible images that encourage and sustain self-esteem and self-love. This is why we support any positive images of these little girls.

In the 1940’s, noted psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark were challenged with a salient fact: Black children felt inferior to their white counterparts. For the Clarks, finding ways to instill racial pride in these children became paramount, but first they needed to conduct a study that would support their premise that the psychological effects of racism and segregation negatively impacts on black children, their self-esteem and how they viewed the world from the vantage point of an inferior status.

To do this they used Black and White dolls and asked Black children to choose between the good and pretty dolls. A majority of the choices were always for the White dolls. The outcome of their 1950 study would become the basis for psychologists and social scientists to study the impact of racism and segregation

on Black children for decades to come. Their findings would also play a pivotal role in the Brown vs. Board of Education’s Supreme Court’s legal ruling.

The Clark’s findings were as profound as they were prescient. Much has happened in the world since that time – the end of Jim Crow, the explosion of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and of course, the second wave of the Women’s Movement. And throughout all of these historic events, institutionalized racism has waged on and its tentacles have loomed unflinchingly in the shadows of America’s halls of justice, in our educational systems, in our social arenas, and in our doll choices.

For decades doll manufacturers have tended to produce mostly scantily-clad dolls, most often with long wavy hair, as their main line of dolls for young Black girls. Very few of these dolls have ever represented the beauty, brilliance and positivity of Black girls. And never has there been any doll that has been named for a real living Black girl who was a contemporary icon.

The CEO and Founder of DollsLikeMe is abundantly aware of the systemic impact of racism on generation after generation of Black children. For her, Shirley Temple and Caroline Kennedy were the iconic dolls when she was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s; dolls that time and time again, told her that her skin, her color and her race was inferior to others and that she did not matter.

DollsLikeMe was created to address this anomaly. It is a company that has consistently met the needs of parents of Black and Latino children as well as a growing number of parents that do not share the biology or nationality of their adoptive children, but are intuitive and savvy enough to understand that their daughters and sons require strong self-images that are crucial to their overall well-being.

DollsLikeMe, in addition to receiving an overwhelming positive response from parents wanting to purchase the Sasha and Malia dolls, has also received an extremely vitriolic and unwarranted backlash for deciding to carry the dolls in our store.

We are proud to say that we stand by our decision to sell the Ty Company’s dolls named Sasha and Malia. Not because it’s a good business decision that fits squarely into our mission, but because like Obama’s presidency, naming modestly dressed dolls after two sweet young Black girls, will have a psychological affect that is bigger than all of us. Our world now sits on the precipice of change. We are presently living in a time that we can now see the possibility that little Black girls are just as important as little White girls, and that they too can and deserve to be held in adulation, admiration and more importantly as 21st Century icons.