A price tag on self-value

Rabab Al-Sharif

Walmart is causing a stir after cutting the price of a black Barbie doll to almost half the price of the white version.

A photo being passed around the Internet shows Ballerina Barbie and Ballerina Theresa dolls next to each other on a shelf.

The Theresa dolls, which are black, are marked on sale at $3. The Barbies beside them retain their original price of $5.93.

My first reaction was an eye roll.

When a product at a store isn’t selling, the store reduces the price. It’s a simple enough concept.

It’s pretty clear this is not an issue of race, but an issue of money and sales techniques.

“Pricing like items differently is a part of inventory management in retailing,” Melissa O’Brien, a Spokeswoman for Walmart, told ABCNews.com in an e-mail.

She added that both dolls were priced the same to start, but one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.

If there are two identical shirts, one blue and one yellow, and the yellow shirt is priced lower because fewer people are buying it, no one is going to argue.

Then, I realized something. The difference is that no one will look at a cheaper yellow shirt and feel demoralized.

I watched a video from ABC’s “Good Morning America” that accompanied the story. It was ultimately what changed my mind.

The video talked about a study conducted in the 1940s by sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark.

In the study, black children were shown two dolls that were completely identical in every aspect except for the color of their skin.

When asked which doll they would rather play with, 63 percent said the white doll, adding that was the nicer doll. Even more startling, almost half of the children said the white doll looked most like them.

When ABC re-conducted the experiment with 19 black children in 2009, they discovered that 88 percent of children identified with the black doll and a majority preferred to play with the darker doll, both dolls or neither.

When asked which doll was the good doll, most of the children said the black doll was nice or that both were equally nice.

Much better results than 70 years ago, right?

That’s what I thought until I heard the answer to a new question that ABC added: Which doll is the prettiest?

All of the boys answered both dolls were equally pretty, but the girls weren’t so confident.

Nearly half of the girls said the white doll was the prettiest.

To hear these little girls say the white doll was prettier because of its light skin made me feel sick inside, which brought me back to the black doll being sold for less.

What is that telling these young black girls?

That the white dolls are better? That the white doll is prettier? That they are worth less than little white girls?

It’s easy to look at the issue on the surface and say there is no real issue, that it’s just people worried about being politically correct over something silly.

It’s a lot harder when you hear a little black girl say that brown skin isn’t pretty.

Do I think that Walmart lowered the price to be racist? Absolutely not.

But, if they were truly trying to clear space, why not just lower the price of both dolls?

Is $2.93 really worth a child’s feeling of self-value?

Rabab Al-Sharif is a sophomore magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].