When my biracial son wrote this letter to the Lego company about the need for more racial diversity among Lego figures, I started thinking more deeply about the issue. A friend of mine commented on Facebook that her son (now in his 20s) had written the company complaining that there weren’t any dark-skinned figures because he thought his dark-skinned cousin would feel left out. At that time, Lego responded that they didn’t make different color mini-figures because “yellow was a ‘neutral’ skin color.”
Have you ever given children a crayon and asked them to draw themselves? White children use peach – OR YELLOW – for their skin and brown children DON’T. Not ever. (Unless, perhaps, they wish the were a yellow Lego figure.) Consider this picture my son drew of our beautiful family (I’m the peach one with the yellow hair. He and his father are the brown ones):
I set aside my son’s offense temporarily until I went to the Lego website to submit his letter detailing his desire to organize his school into a strike against Lego because of the aforementioned ‘neutral’ yellow heads and, much to my great surprise, found this:
Yes, folks, in 2014. The centuries old narrative of one color dominating the world’s story needs to change. Its hurting us all.
We now have a black president, 15% of marriages are interracial, over 20% of our country isn’t white, and that this figure is quickly increasing at a rapid rate. Perhaps Lego missed the headlines that this is the world’s most typical – or in Lego’s words ‘neutral’ – person:
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Lego. I love their creativity and quality and imagination. That’s why it shocks me so greatly that such a genius company dismisses such a significant reality of its consumer market. Consider with me a few facts about Lego:
- There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world’s 6 billion inhabitants.
- More than 400 million people around the world have played with LEGO bricks.
- 7 LEGO sets are sold by retailers every second around the world. (Neatorama)
Here’s part of a fascinating infographic by visual.ly that gives specific stats about mini figures themselves:
Let’s think about these stats for a minute:
- If 400 million people around the world have played with Legos, it’s likely safe to assume that quite a few of these people weren’t yellow – or male for that matter.
- Lego has corporate Lego offices in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, and Taiwan – none countries which have a sizable ‘yellow’ population (unless, that is, Lego cares to recreate the demeaning slurs of yesteryear).
- If this many Legos and mini figures are being created and sold around the world at such a rapid rate, surely there’s enough market interest for Lego to create characters of varying skin hues, genders and ethnicities.
- If one of Lego’s 4 most frequently asked questions posted on their own website is about the color of the mini figures’ skin, I’m clearly not the first person to ask this question. This mama-bear wants to know why the problem is being dismissed and not fixed asap. My son is growing up quickly and there’s no time to waste.
Step up to the plate, Lego. Surely your unparalleled creativity can come up with a better solution that allows all children to see themselves in your toys given the remarkable history of innovation you have always shown. Stop the excuses about yellow heads being ‘neutral’ – #werenotbuyingit – even the kids see straight through that one.
Sign our petition to ask Lego to make their minifigures more diverse at Change.org. Be sure to forward it along to your friends on Facebook or Twitter as well.