All-American Girl


Over at the Paris Review, Brit Bennett profiles the role, or lack thereof, of black dolls among Americans today:

Of course, you can still buy racist dolls. Golliwogs—blackfaced rag dolls—are still sold in the United Kingdom; only in 2009 were they finally removed from a gift shop on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. Pickaninny dolls, racist caricatures of black children, live on in the homes of collectors and in the recesses of the Internet. eBay sellers advertise “charming vintage” pickaninny dolls with black skin, bulging eyes, and big red lips. An Etsy page describes a windup toy as “a historic remnant of America’s past,” an antique that depicts “a crying little black boy performing the iconic action commonly seen in the pickaninny stereotype as the child is eating a slice of plantation watermelon.” The seller acknowledges that the piece is “certainly racist,” but hails “the adorable characteristics of a precious little toddler with his charming little shape and cute chubby cheeks and limbs.”

Bryan Washington has written for Puerto Del Sol, Ninth Letter, and Midnight Breakfast, among others; he's also the recipient of a Houstonia Fellowship. He lives around New Orleans. More from this author →