Over 1,000 black rag dolls featuring instructions on how to abuse them were removed from three One Dollar Zone stores in Bayonne, New Jersey after being called racist and harmful to African Americans.
The dolls, called “Feel Better Dolls,” are made of black fabric and have hair made of red, green, yellow, and black yarn. They also “feature large white eyes and a white smile [which] quickly sparked allegations of blackface imagery” noted CBS New York News. A patch is sewn onto the dolls’ stomachs, reading:
“Whenever things don’t go well, and you want to hit the wall and yell, heres a little ‘feel better doll’ that you just will not do without. Just grab it firmly by the legs and find a wall to slam the doll, and as you whack the ‘feel good doll’ do not forget to yell I FEEL GOOD I FEEL GOOD.”
The "Feel Better Doll" comes with a label that tells people to "slam the doll" against a wall "whenever things don't go well." https://t.co/X4EqpO8xeF— CNN (@CNN) July 27, 2019
State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight called the dolls “offensive” and “inappropriate” after seeing a post on social media.
“Racism has no place in the world and I will not tolerate it, especially not in this district,” McKnight wrote on social media.
“When I saw the doll in person, I cringed and was truly disheartened by the thought of a black child being beaten by another child or an adult for pure pleasure. To have a product depict or teach children that it is OK to hit another child, regardless of race, in order to feel good is sick. Dolls should be a symbol of love, care and affection.”
Obvious racism aside, why is anybody ok with encouraging a violent outlet for emotions? And no, wrecking stuff using the same excuse isn’t ok either. Healthy patterns for problem solving and emotional management need to start young.
— catherine mack (@catobie) July 27, 2019
Oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. https://t.co/OKdkzlqcRR— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) July 27, 2019
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis agreed, saying the dolls “can certainly be considered racist” and were “insensitive” in a Facebook post.
The dolls were manufactured by the Harvey Hutter Company, which is no longer in business.
One Dollar Zone President Ricky Shah said he was sorry for the incident. The company immediately pulled the dolls from the shelves. According to Shah, the dolls were part of an assorted purchase that was not carefully vetted before distribution.
“This somehow slipped through the cracks,” he said.
The dolls were manufactured, shipped, received and put out on display. Who thought, given our current climate, that this was a good idea? Glad they were removed.
— ♥NancyB♥ (@villyforever55) July 27, 2019
Some social media users pointed out that this doll is a rip off of “Dammit Dolls,” which have a similar purpose but are specifically made for adults and either come in patterns or resemble famous, easily identifiable people (check out The President Doll).
Other users also noted that the “Feel Better Dolls” came in two other colors — green and yellow — as if that made the black doll’s appearance less problematic.
As The Root pointed out, the history of black dolls in America is less than ideal. In the early 1940s, Dr. Kenneth Clark and Dr. Mamie Clark’s “doll experiments” helped establish that black children were suffering from internalized racism and low self-esteem. And let’s not forget the popularity of offensive blackface minstrel figures, such as mammy dolls, in American culture.
Let’s do better, people.
As if a black doll with hair strands the color of the Pan-African flag specifically created to be abused by its owner is anything BUT racist.https://t.co/ibzgvUd1qg— David Atchison (@DavidNAtchison) July 27, 2019