In this age of social hypersensitivity, cries of racism have become commonplace. One of the most memorable examples of this kneejerk reaction was the 2008 objection of a black Dallas County traffic commissioner to the use of the phrase “black hole” to describe the county’s broken collection apparatus.
While most of these allegations turn to be bogus, sometimes they cut ice. Take the case of Ida Lockett, of Sacramento, who recently celebrated her son’s fifth birthday. One of the child’s presents was a Playmobil pirate set complete with action figures. According to CBS News:
“He was excited when he got it,” the mother explained…. “I spent the weekend putting it together.”
And only after putting together the gift from his aunt did she see what her son was playing with. Pointing to a piece that appears to be a shackle and the dark-skinned play figure, Lockett said, “This right here was found on his neck.”
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The character with no shoes and tattered pants came with instructions to put some sort of neck piece on him….
“You cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else,” Lockett said. “The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is — it’s a slave collar.”
The toy ship also features a cargo cell below the deck, which Lockett claims is reminiscent of a slave hold.
Whether you agree with Lockett, you should find the manufacturer’s explanation interesting:
This piece is from a PLAYMOBIL pirate playset that is designed to depict life on a 17th-century pirate ship on the high seas. If you look at the box, you can see that the pirate figure is clearly a crew member on the pirate ship and not a captive. The figure was meant to represent a pirate who was a former slave in a historical context. It was not our intention to offend anyone in anyway.
A former slave? And the end user and his parents are supposed to understand that how?
As for toys teaching history, the goal is laudable. But in light of the politically charged climate in the nation nowadays, perhaps a little more care in choosing topics needs to be exercised.