The disturbing difference between black and white Barbies

There’s been a long fight for diversity in toys, for Barbies that aren’t just blond and blue-eyed and impossibly proportioned. But even when the company comes up with versions of the doll that aren’t pale-skinned, there’s still discrimination involved.

Just ask parent Warren Johnson, who was looking for a Barbie for his daughter for Christmas. The model that his daughter wanted was the Barbie Fashion Design Maker African-American doll, one of the toys that’s flying off the shelves for the holiday season. But when he was doing research online, Johnson found that the African-American version of the doll retailed for almost twice as much as its white counterpart. So he took to Twitter to raise the following question:

“It kind of rubbed me the wrong way in light of all the things that are going on in our society right now,” Johnson told news station WCPO, referring to recent concerns of racial injustice in our country. “When my daughter asked the question, ‘Why is the black doll more expensive than the white doll?’ I really didn’t have an answer.”

It’s a fair question. It doesn’t seem right that a little girl looking for a black Barbie doll should have to shell out any more than for a white Barbie. When Johnson called Target about the price discrepancy, a manager said it was an error and offered Johnson the doll at the lower price. The store also released a statement to WCPO indicating that the pricing was a mistake. Target is now selling both Barbies at the same price.

Target isn’t the only retailer to have a difference in the price between light- and dark-skinned dolls. At Toys-R-Us, the same African-American doll was on sale for four dollars less than its white counterpart. Wal-Mart’s website also listed an African-American Barbie for $11.87 while its Caucasian version cost $9.88, CNBCfound. 

When contacted, Wal-Mart also cited a pricing error, and vowed to make up the difference to anyone who had purchased the African-American doll at the higher price with a gift card. “It is our policy to price like dolls of all ethnicities the same. We will ensure pricing is correct,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

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