The first question Leila the moderator at the panel discussion for Hairitage (part of CinemAfrica's film festival) asked us was if we could relate to the short film Black Barbie. The film was animated and was about a girl who got a black Barbie from her mom and didn't want it, she wanted a white Barbie and hated the black Barbie's broad nose and full lips. And how she grew up to hate her African features and started to bleach her skin.
The film made me think of where our pain starts and how important childhood is. We need role models that look like us. We need to feel beautiful and able to do anything. We need dolls that look like us, cartoon characters that look like us, teachers, doctors, everything! We believe what we see so for a young child it is hard to believe they can be anything if they aren't represented in the area they want to pursue.
I had one black Barbie growing up and probably around twenty white ones. I'm not sure who gave me that black Barbie but I cherished her. I named her after my sister (who was my biggest role model as a young child) and kept her in her original clothes. My white Barbie's got hair cuts and sometimes broke because I handled them so rough. But my black Barbie was treated different. I barely combed her hair because I didn't want to loosen her curls. I loved that Barbie and kept her long after I stopped playing with dolls. My experience was totally opposite to the girl in the film. I longed for dolls that looked like me but all I had were white blue eyed baby dolls. Til this day I still feel excited when I see black dolls and feel the urge to buy them. It's like the little girl I once was still longs for those dolls.
Today it's a bit easier. There are black dolls (far and few between in Sweden though, thank God for online shopping), there are cartoons with black characters, there are black TV presenters on the Swedish children's channel. It's a bit different, we are more represented. This I think will contribute to our kids being more comfortable with their skin and their hair. No little black child should grow up feeling like the girl in Black Barbie and start bleaching their skin because of it.