While strolling through a local Costco, a customer noticed a black doll for sale. However, after taking a closer look, he issued a complaint to the store that had employees scrambling to remove the “racist” doll from the shelves.
For countless manufacturers, the toy industry provides an ever-expanding market filled with insatiable young consumers. Of course, little girls are often the driving force behind this demand, motivating retailers to come up with the next popular toy to sell out across the country.
Unsurprisingly, dolls are an especially hot commodity and can be seen lining the shelves at most major retailers. However, one such toy has since caused controversy not only for the manufacturer but also the corporate giant that approved it for distribution.
While shopping at a Costco in Greensboro, North Carolina, John Taylor stumbled upon a product that he believes is blatantly racist. The item in question is part of the “Cuddle with Me” doll line by Brass Key, which features a black doll and stuffed monkey companion. The curious customer had to do a doubletake when he saw that the doll had the words “lil’ monkey” stitched on its stocking cap.
Taken aback, Taylor told WXII that he simply “couldn’t believe it” when he spotted the doll sitting on a shelf. He says that the allegedly racist connotation instantly conjured up past racial discrimination he suffered before the Civil Rights movement.
“Seeing that, it all just brought everything back to me. They need to watch and see what they’re putting out in the stores,” Taylor said.
The doll came in three races — black, Caucasian, and Hispanic — with each including a “plush monkey,” a “plush banana,” and a “monkey bib.” New Pittsburgh Courier incorrectly reported that only the black doll came with a “monkey” theme. The other dolls also included identical outfits and monkey companions.
John Taylor bought one of the dolls.
Finding the toy to be deeply offensive, Taylor complained to Costco management, but not before purchasing one of the dolls to take to the media. Upon closer inspection of the dolls, the store made the decision to immediately pull them from shelves and make a public apology.
“We offer our sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the product,” said Arthur Jackson, Costco vice president of general administration. “That was surely never our intent.”
The dolls were purchased from Brass Key Keepsakes, which is based in Washington state but imported this specific product from China. CEO Mary Gustaff explained that she didn’t realize that the theme would be considered offensive.
“We don’t think in that way. We don’t operate in that kind of thinking,” she said. “We have a really diverse family-operated company that’s been around for 28 years. What would we have to gain for heaven’s sake? It’s so unfortunate that it has been portrayed that way. The dolls were in no way meant to be disrespectful.”
When the local community was asked about the dolls, some residents agreed that the monkey-themed dolls could be seen as racially insensitive.
“When I first look at it, no, I don’t think anything about it but now that I see the ‘lil’ monkey,’ yes, I could see where that would probably present a problem,” Teresa Slaughter said.
“I’d like to know who made it. I mean, it’s kind of a negative impact for African-Americans,” Dee Williams said.
The company also released a series of “Cuddle with Me” dolls that included plush panda bears and “pretty panda” hats. These animal-themed dolls remained on the shelves for purchase.
The offensive dolls have since been discontinued, and only the ones that were purchased before the recall exist. Apparently, for manufacturers and retailers, it only takes one complaint to get mass-produced merchandise stripped from production entirely.