Black Mother Finds a Shackled Slave in Her Son’s Pirate Ship Toy Set, Reigniting the Debate Over Racist Toys

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downloadA European-manufactured pirate ship toy set includes a shackled slave character, and instructions on how to place the slave cuff around the Black character’s neck.  What could go wrong?

As CBS13 in Sacramento reported, Ida Lockett, a Black mother, was happy for her son received a Playmobil pirate ship set for his fifth birthday.  But she was horrified when she realized what the gift his aunt bought at Toys R Us contained.

“He was excited when he got it,” she said. “I spent the weekend putting it together.”

Then, Lockett realized the what her son was playing with—a dark-skinned character with tattered pants, no shoes, and instructions to place a collar around his neck.

“This right here was found on his neck,” she said, referring to the slave collar.  “You cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else. The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is—it’s a slave collar.”

“It’s definitely racist,” Lockett said, also noting the ship came with what she called a dungeon. “It told my son to put a slave cuff around the black character’s neck, and then to play with the toy.”

“This is deplorable; this cannot be accepted, and it needs to be pulled off the shelf,” said Sacramento NAACP President Stephen Webb, demanding action.  Lockett said she will urge the manager at Toys R Us “not to support this particular product.”

Racist toys certainly are nothing new, with recent examples such as Oreo Barbie, or “L’il Monkey Doll,” a Black baby girl doll that comes complete with a monkey.  “Diaper Fits Both Baby & Monkey!” the label said. Then there was the Obama monkey puppet.

Playmobil Christmas set with St. Nicholas and Black Pete
Playmobil Christmas set with St. Nicholas and Black Pete

Richard Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts, told CBS 2 in New York, “I know that they would be crazy to have ever done anything like this intentionally.”

Gottlieb added that the company, based in Germany, was attempting to show multiculturalism with a Black pirate, but was off base by including the slave collar accessory.  “I don’t think the Europeans have the sensitivity to race that we do because they don’t have our history,” Gottlieb added.

IMAG0444-1Meanwhile, Playmobil, the manufacturer of the slave ship playset also makes a Christmas toy set for the Netherlands featuring St. Nicholas and his Black sidekick-servant, the popular children’s character Black Pete.  Black Pete, or Zwart Piet, typically is portrayed as a buffoon along the lines of a “coon” or “sambo” in American Afrophobic tradition.  As a longstanding tradition during the holiday season, white Dutch, young and old, dress as Black Pete in blackface, wearing Afro wigs, gold hoops their ears and an exaggerated, red-painted mouth. People of African descent have protested against the Black Pete tradition as racist, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged the European nation to eliminate racial stereotyping, as “the character of Black Pete is sometimes portrayed in a manner that reflects negative stereotypes of people of African descent and is experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery.”

Playmobil also makes a set featuring three Black Petes.

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