Culture & Race, Families, Children & Marriage

Dear Lego: Yellow is not a ‘neutral’ skin color

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.”

I gasped.

Really, Lego?  

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):

family

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:

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.51.14 AMYes, 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:

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 6.46.39 PM

Not this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 6.51.11 PM

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:

lego

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.  

swirl

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.  

Culture & Race, Families, Children & Marriage

Dear Lego: Get your Butts to Work on Equality

Apparently, I’m raising a couple of activists.  My daughter was just complaining yesterday that Lego makes cool toys for boys and boring ones for girls, so there was much rejoicing in our house upon reading this letter that recently went viral:

Immediately after I showed this to my kids, my Lego-loving son son went straight to work on his own letter to the company.  When his older sister suggested that Mama might not approve of the ‘butt’ part, he responded, “Well, Mama says what she thinks, so I’m going to say what I think,” and proceeded to include his own vocabulary choice in his letter even though he knew it meant risking the loss of his precious screen time.  (Upon reading the letter, I thought it captured many children’s frustration with the company’s lack of attention to diversity well, so in this case we applauded his accurate choice of vocabulary and had a good little chuckle ourselves!).

He’s not one for beating around the bush, this kid.  His teacher recently told me that when his class was discussing the history of Native Americans, she made a comment along the lines of, “The Europeans did a few bad things to the Native Americans.” to which my son promptly responded, “Really?!?  Just a few???”

His keen mind sees straight to the core of so many things, and he captured another aspect of Lego’s bias so perfectly in his letter below that I couldn’t resist asking him if he would mind guest-posting on my blog.  He graciously agreed.  So without further adieu, I introduce to you my slightly sassy, ever truth-telling and fabulous 8 year old son, Jehan:

lego letterFor those of you not proficient in reading 8-year-old-handwriting, here’s a transcription:

Dear Lego,

I know you have to make white people in Lego, but I am biracial and I would like (and probably a lot of other people too) for you [to] make more dark skinned and Chinese legos.  I have never seen a Chinese Lego minifigure.  Now, if you don’t make these, I will ask me and my friends to go on a strike on Lego! So I mean now and maybe even my whole class!

So I suggest you get your Lego butts working or I will ask the whole school to do a strike on Lego.  Now my sister thinks I should NOT post this on Facebook, but a girl named [Charolotte] did, so I am!

Now I mostly play with girls.  I think girls aren’t all pink princesses because my friend Arie plays spies with me.  She has bows, guns, you name it.  Now, my other good friend Emma, she would like to have Lego girls too.  Maybe you could have a new form of Legos – Lego Adventure – Lego sales would go haywire.

From, Jehan