When a politician found out a local dollar store was selling “racist” dolls, she marched into the discount store and demanded their removal. She succeeded in getting the merchandise pulled, but was it really created to promote racism?
State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight was disgusted when she saw dolls being sold at One Dollar Zone in Bayonne, New Jersey. The rag dolls, which were made of black fabric and featured red, green, and yellow hair made of yarn, promised to make owners “feel better.” However, the instruction on achieving an increased feeling of peacefulness offended McKnight, who found the dolls’ message downright “racist,” and the mayor agreed.
According to instructions sewn on the front of the doll, the owner could make themselves “feel better” by slamming the toy against the wall. “Whenever things don’t go well and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little ‘feel better doll,'” the instructions read. “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.”
Of course, this didn’t make State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, a Democrat whose district includes Bayonne, feel good at all. Instead, she found them “offensive” and “inappropriate” and decided to do something about it. According to CNN, McKnight visited the One Dollar Zone store in Bayonne to talk to the manager. With the help of the mayor, she ensured the dolls were removed from shelves.
According to One Dollar Zone President Ricky Shah, after the company was made aware of the concerns, roughly 1,000 dolls were immediately pulled from three stores, including the one in Bayonne and two others in New Jersey. He also apologized for the “oversight” that allowed them to reach store shelves.
“The dolls were included in a shipment of about 35,000 pieces of closeout merchandise, Shah said, mostly with an I Love NY theme, including mugs and picture frames,” Daily Mail reported. “The Paterson-based company didn’t adequately check a large lot of items it had received before distributing them to stores, he said. ‘This somehow slipped through the cracks,’ he said.”
“It tells a little kid to, in order to feel well, you take this, and you throw it against a wall,” McKnight, who represents Bayonne as well as other areas of Jersey City, told News 12 New Jersey. “And you whack her – her – and while you’re doing that, you say, ‘I feel good. I feel good,'” she furthered, emphasizing her. “That’s bullying. That’s domestic violence. That’s not love, and that’s instructions to tell a kid how to be violent.”
Of course, anything that encourages real-life violence should be troubling, but if that’s truly what disturbs Angela McKnight and others, they need to take issue with all dolls that promote such a message, including similar “Dammit Dolls,” containing similar instructions, which have been around for years. They are even sold on Amazon and designed to resemble Donald Trump, a “grumpy” veteran, and a white “stressed-out soccer mom.” They also offer “Dammit Doll Pets,” but we haven’t heard a peep from PETA — yet.
According to additional statements from McKnight, it would seem that the real issue isn’t the violence the doll promotes but rather the color of the fabric the doll is made from. “It is clearly made in an inappropriate representation of a black person and instructs people to ‘slam’ and ‘whack’ her,” McKnight said.
“Racism has no place in the world and I will not tolerate it, especially not in this district,” Angela McKnight furthered. “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.”
Although McKnight added, “To have a product depict or teach children that it is okay to hit another child, regardless of race, in order to feel good is sick,” it doesn’t appear she’s taken any issue with the white dolls created with the same message.
New Jersey State Senator Sandra Cunningham, who also called the doll offensive, only seemed to take issue with the doll being made of black fabric as well. “It brings back the thoughts of slavery. That is not what you can do,” she said. “So, it’s not censorship, not if you do something that purposefully hurts other people.”
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis shared similar sentiments, calling the dolls “insensitive” and saying they “can certainly be considered racist” in a Facebook post. “Aside from the shock of seeing such an insensitive product being sold in our community, I am grateful for the people that saw it and said something immediately,” he added. “I also want to thank Assemblywoman McKnight for her quick response and assistance. We will not tolerate any symbol of hate and division within our community!”
But, is it a symbol of hate and division? Over time, there have been copious complaints about “white” dolls being manufactured more frequently than those created to represent a person of color. Perhaps, this wasn’t intended as racism but inclusion. In general, people tend to pick things that look like them. We could assume a person of color might want a doll of color. So, was the manufacturer simply giving people of color the option to have a doll of color?
What’s more, the Feel Better Doll manufactured in white didn’t appear to be available at the dollar store. That might tell us something. Did it sell so well that it never made it to the discount store’s shelves? There could be a bright side to the story; namely, since the black rag doll was a closeout item, it would appear not many people wanted to abuse it. So, you decide: Are the dolls actually a sign of racism or perhaps just the opposite?