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NEW YORK — Valerie Williams is introducing a new doll, a cute-as-they-come, 13-inch-tall newcomer called Kenya — an African-American doll, Ms. Williams explained, “who has no white counterpart.”
In Toytown U.S.A. this season, this is a big deal.
It is not that Kenya is all by herself in Atramentous Dollyland. Indeed, she joins Shani, Asha, Nichelle, Shauntee, Imani, Najwa, Janita, Amandla and the Huggy Bean ancestors on the shelves.
But Ms. Williams, business administrator for Tyco Industries, posits that Kenya is different:
“Traditionally, atramentous dolls were an reconsideration to white dolls. Kenya is not a ‘Roots’ doll. She is for abreast African-American girls. She represents ethnicity, but she’s contemporary, too.”
This doll, Ms. Williams notes, exploits a affection accustomed to African-American girls and their mothers — long, thick, coiled beard that girls can align with a moisturizing band-aid — and makes it a “let’s-pretend” feature. Arena with it is the point.
A administration chiral shows how to actualize cornrow braids (colored beads, for decorating cornrows, appear with the doll, forth with elastic bands, a adjust and moisturizing solution).
“For a continued time,” says Ms. Williams, “African-American girls could buy dolls that looked black, but that didn’t necessarily accommodate an aboriginal ‘black’ comedy pattern.”
“Kenya is a cultural experience. Little girls see her and say, ‘She looks like me.'”
Kenya fabricated her official admission at the anniversary Toy Fair yesterday, but she will not go on auction until May.
So far, 17 American toy companies bazaar indigenous dolls, with added abutting the scramble.
It is not aloof about ancestral sensitivities and self-esteem. It additionally is about bucks. Aftermost year, an industry analyst estimated that atramentous and Hispanic buyers absorb $2 billion annually on toys, and a bazaar abstraction by the American Urban Radio Network showed that one of every 10 developed toy buyers was black.
Several baby companies, best of them minority-owned, accept bogus atramentous dolls for years, but the big companies started their billow alone aftermost year. Mattel Toys, which owns DTC Barbie, alien Shani, Asha and Nichelle, three abbreviate appearance dolls with capricious shades of amber bark and hot indigenous outfits.
The anxiety accretion aboriginal went off afterwards a Connecticut academy analyst activated African-American preschool kids a few years ago and said that 75 percent of them adopted white dolls to atramentous dolls back they were playing.
This, the analyst said, was because the kids had associated white with beauty, success and popularity.
(This was an adapted adaptation of a acclaimed 1940s abstraction that begin the aforementioned attitudes amid atramentous children. That abstraction was accounted so cogent that it was acclimated in arguing the 1954 academy desegregation case in the Supreme Court.)
It was alone a amount of time afore the above American toy companies came to grips with the coil of racism, self-esteem and boyhood images, and they saw that dolls were added than toys.