• Manicka Thomas, LISW

New Jersey Store Pulls Controversial "Feel Better Doll" from Shelves But It Feels All Too Familiar

New Jersey stores pulls controversial "Feel Better Doll" from shelves after staff say that placing the dolls on the shelves must have "slipped through the cracks." From looking at the doll, it is a black rag doll with yellow, red, and green yarn which looks to mimic locs. On the chest of the doll it reads, " Whenever things don't go well and you want to hit the wall and yell, here's a little "feel better doll" that you just will not do without. Just grab it firmly by the legs and find a wall to slam the doll and as you whack the "feel better doll" don't forget to yell " I FEEL GOOD, I FEEL BETTER." 

Many political leaders have been speaking out on social media, calling the dolls "offensive and "insensitive." This controversy is another to be added to the long list of brands and companies who have showed blatant disrespect toward the historical mockery of black people. I'm sure we all remember the Gucci Sweatshirt, the H&M hoodie controversies. 

Many may argue that these are mere coincidences and not a part of a much larger narrative that has been playing out for centuries.  But those of us who are familiar with the history of Black Face in this country know that white performers would paint their faces with dark makeup, using shoe polish and would mock the language, gestures and mannerisms of black people for entertainment. 

As the minstrel show continued to evolve, black people would dance around on stage, with big beaty eyes, sluggish speech, moving around like sloths on each scene...reinforcing the stereotype of the foolish, shiftless, lazy negro...or the loud, overweight, sassy mammy. 

Our community has to bear the weight of moving forward in our own restoration and healing while still being directly confronted with reminders of our historical oppression. It is a fight on all fronts where it can often times feel as if there is nowhere safe for us to have a mental and emotional break. In 2019 we are still viewed as the dominant society's jester...here for their entertainment and amusement.  Our bodies, our culture, our language and music still being exploited...but now being masked under notions that the perpetrators of these stereotypes are somehow unaware, ill informed or oblivious to their behaviors. 

"Those who cannot learn from their history are doomed to repeat it."

Offensive Why?

As we continue to educate ourselves about who we are, who we have been and who we are becoming as a culture of people... we have to realize that not only is the "Feel, Better Doll" a modern-day version of the Gold Dust Twins, Black Pete or the Golliwog caricature... but it is part of a continued narrative that it is okay to harm, disrespect and devalue black life..this ingrained thinking cannot simply be changed by diversity education. 

It is a mindset, a believe, in the inherent inferiority of Black people that has taken decades to create and that keeps these messages alive and passed on throughout generations. This inferiority makes the dominant society feel as if they can talk over us in group spaces, or shoot down our ideas and present them as their own, or can question the validity of our recommendations in the company meeting, while taking in the suggestions of others at face value.  It is not enough for us to boycott, protest or share these types of images throughout social media. 

We have to be in charge of recreating our own narratives, not just with counter messages, but with principles and values, that we stand on as a culture, that reinforce to ourselves and to our children who we are... despite how the dominate society portrays us to be. Their version of us, may be the story they want the world to see, but the more we realize their purpose and intention in viewing us in these ways, the more enlightened we will be about how we must continue to move as a culture. 

If you are interesting in becoming a part of my community where we are taking steps to enhance our cultural and mental wellness education or if you are eager to learn the information we needed to succeed in career and life that just wasn't taught in high school then consider becoming a part of the Kindred Collective Online Healing Group for Black Women.

#minstrelshow #africanamerican #minstrel #blackface

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