American Girl Racism 03

American Girl Kills Off Asian, Black Dolls

Though American Girl discontinued two of its historical dolls of color last week, the company promises it's not discrimination—it's business strategy

When American Girl opted to discontinue two of its historical dolls last week, the brand chose Facebook as its medium of communication: “Soon, we’ll say farewell to Marie-Grace, Cécile, Ruthi and Ivy,” American Girl announced. “Complete your collection while supplies last—quantities are extremely limited.”

It wasn’t so simple, though. What the brand failed to address in its statement, but which very quickly became evident in blog posts, was that Cécile, an African-American doll, and Ivy, an Asian-American doll, were two of the only dolls of color in American Girl’s standard collection.

American Girl's Cécile

American Girl

The Facebook post has since spawned more than 1,100 comments, including some from American Girl public relations combatting rumors about the company’s racial motives. Race, the PR reps say, has nothing to do with the brand’s decision; rather, it’s a tactical business choice about the value of its historical dolls like Cécile and Ivy, and all part of the company’s slow but relatively silent evolution as a brand working to refresh its appearance.

“While we are archiving these characters as part of this shift in strategy, we remain incredibly proud of the wide range of backgrounds, cultures and races offered in all of our doll lines,” says Stephanie Spanos, American Girl senior PR rep, in an email to Vocativ. “We’re honored that people look to us as a leader in creating high-quality, diverse characters.”

There isn’t an obvious lack of diverse characters in the set: The company maintains its “My American Girl” series, where collectors can create dolls in their likeness, and its “Girl of the Year” series, to which a new doll is introduced annually. The brand also continues to manufacture some of the very same dolls it did when it launched, known to collectors as the “Historical Characters,” and those dolls reflect a variety of backgrounds and races. So though the company is eliminating its “Best Friends” collection, character pairings of which Cécile and Ivy are a part, there’s no shortage of cultural variety.

American Girl's Ivy

American Girl

All this is perhaps why reactions on Facebook are so mixed; comments following the post are part eulogy (“The Historical Dolls taught me history and were one of the happiest memories of my childhood,” one woman writes); part concern for the future (“If you decide to have no historical girls at all…my little girl and myself with be crushed,” writes a mom); and a lot of confusion about why the brand is doing away with some of the few racially diverse dolls in its standardized collection (“I guess Asians are no longer an important demographic to the American Girl company,” writes another mom).

Spanos recognizes that the news “can be disappointing to some”—especially loyalists attached to discontinued dolls—but reiterates that the selection is part of the brand’s overall business calculations. “Our goal—as it has always been—is to ensure that all of our doll lines remain successful for generations to come,” she says. “That means continuing to refresh and evolve the lines over time so they remain interesting, meaningful and enjoyable for girls today.”

But is the brand sacrificing some of its authenticity for future success? In an April 2013 article published in The Atlantic, Amy Schiller explores the notion that the dolls are no longer as “radical” as they used to be. “With a greater focus on appearance, increasingly mild character development, and innocuous political topics, a former character-building toy has become more like a stylish accessory,” she writes. “Now the company’s identity feels as smooth, unthreatening and empty as the dolls on their shelves.”

American Girl

New Yorker blogger Adrienne Raphel makes a similar point in an October 2013 follow-up story, in which she, too, reflects on the personality of the brand. In the story, “Our Dolls, Ourselves?” (note the question mark), Raphel says more than 23 million dolls have been sold since the launch of the company, but many collectors feel the brand had sold its soul to bigger business ideals.

Perhaps the best example of the brand’s recent shift from personality-based to profit-based decision-making is Isabelle—the latest doll to hit shelves. Part of the company’s “Girl of the Year” series, Isabelle is a blond ballet dancer whose primary accessories are her vanity table and yoga mat. And while she isn’t outwardly diverse in any quantifiable way (her most obvious quirk is the pink streak of dye that runs through her hair), she certainly reflects the aspirations of many young girls across the country.

Even so, Spanos promises that the brand’s forthcoming personalities will continue to reflect American Girls’ push for a diverse crowd on shelves. And the company promises that its discontinued historical characters will live on in the form of its “BeForever” book line, out this fall. “As always, we look forward to introducing new characters with exciting new adventures, exposing girls to rich cultures and fascinating new eras in the future,” she says.

Respond Now
  • This is crazy. They d/c dolls at times. I really was ticked when they D/c’d Samantha. It isn’t at all racist. Go on Ebay and see what these retired dolls are going for.

  • I have a feeling the minority dolls don’t sell nearly as well. Because let’s be honest it’s mostly little white girls who buy these dolls. I’m sure most of the women and mothers who collect them are white to. They shouldn’t have to make minority dolls for the sake of political correctness if there isn’t a demand for them. If you want them to make them then support the one’s they do release. Because if they’d sold as well as the Yoga Mat Girl of The Year they would start making more standard minority dolls. I’d also like to point out the critique is they currently won’t have any asian or black dolls after these are discontinued. But if they made them in the past and are making them in the future. Why do they always have to be producing a doll of every race culture and creed even if no one wants them?

  • they already sell arabic dolls, hispanic, and other races NOT made by this company. go buy these and stop your whining. america is free capitalism. you have choice to buy from others or even make your own. you can even buy your favorite “race” online, just so you can feel good and toot your horn about your ancestry.

  • I think they will reintroduce a minority doll, but I think what seems so strange that the people that have the most commentary about this situation thinking it’s just people being “whiny” and “liberal crybabies” are white women who enjoyed playing with white their white American Girl dolls. In fact, when they make one exit, they should bring in another to replace. Do they even still have their Mexican doll, Josefina?

  • II don’t see the problem hereis AG offered the dolls to begin with and anyone who is complaining about the doll leaving can walk into an AG store and buy one before they are gone.They act as through they never wrote the books or offered the dolls to begin with.They change the dolls around all time no one really cared before because the dolls they retired where all white.If a doll isn’t selling well they change it up with another doll that will sell better.All these dolls are part of the friends collections which will no longer be offered Because friend dolls don’t sell as well.Companies change there products around all the time .Disney didn’t have an African american princess for long either but they still only have one and one of the other backgrounds and they change there movies around all the time so what.People are getting sick of people throwing around the card over ever little thing .

  • This comments thread is bananas. I agree that this was just a business desision and nothing racist. However, if you read down, some pretty racist people sure showed up to comment! Holy crap.

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  • they were trying to avoid people pulling the race card by using their names instead of saying ” we’re retiring the black and Chinese chick, sorry bout that” no… they get rid of their lowest selling dolls… its not racist, its business, the majority of their customers are white. Ive seen more white women with dolls than black women or Chinese women. again, thats not racist, its true. if a black doll line retired a white doll no one would care. stop pulling the race card and just buy the doll if you want it or get outta here.

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    • well, true. there are not nearly as many asian girls in America as white ones, so since it markets them as mini-mes, it will not sell as many asian dolls. duh.so if we think about it, we should not create anything for the minorities in America. it will not sell as many as for the majority groups. for profits first, I suggest we get rid of anything that is targeting blacks, latinos, asians, the disabled, deaf, blind, the dirt poor, those with allergies to say peanuts, and definately the GLBTQ and intersex groups…anything related to any minority is costing us big bucks.That is what America is all about…profit first.

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      • So…pandering to minorities is more important to a company than being able to pay its bills?

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      • minority?? heffa, go check ur roots..ur not pure white!!! u think anything that isnt a christian male is a minoirty

    • Problem with it was the Pr tactic in the first place. Poor marketing was it’s down fall!

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    • well i don’t see whites trying to be asian by getting surgery to have chinese eyes. i see the reverse. ditto for the nosejobs. thin high bridge nose is what is considered beautiful. so yeah, even chinese people will opt to buy white dolls. there are wayyyy enough black doll toys out there by different companies so they have no reason to complain.

  • Why should the company lose money to keep liberal crybabies happy? 

  • If the biggest problem in your life is no longer being able to collect a doll of a certain cultural descent, you should probably rethink your priorities.

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    • lmao!

  • “Part of the company’s ‘Girl of the Year’ series, Isabelle is a blond ballet dancer whose primary accessories are her vanity table and yoga mat. And while she isn’t outwardly diverse in any quantifiable way (her most obvious quirk is the pink streak of dye that runs through her hair), she certainly reflects the aspirations of many young girls across the country.”Individuals cannot be diverse in the actual sense of the word. Only groups can. A black person alone is not diverse, nor is a white person alone.

  • Hopefully, they’ll make an Asian doll that is a historical character in her own right now instead of just a sidekick. Addie is already a character in her own right, as is Kaya, why not an Asian girl?

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    • a foot binded chinese doll would be historically appropriate. that technically and factually was actualy considered “beautiful” in their society.

  • Perhaps the most frightening dolls in the world.  Who really cares, other than the PC imbeciles in the press?Time to drop the race thing, you bores.

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    • I’m gonna take a wild guess here and say that people who are not white might have some interest in this. Oh, and call me crazy but there might also be some white people who care about being fair and inclusive.

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      • If they sold well enough, they wouldn’t be stopping the line.

  • The other 2 dolls being discontinued are white.  Why is the race card being played?I agree with Charles Austin Miller!

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    • Because it made you read the story, and look at the adds, and it even made me waste 30 seconds responding

  • One thing is sure. If you like your ethnic doll you can keep your ethnic doll, period.

  • Asians are ‘people of color’ now?It was laughale enough when people started lumping Hispanics in that category, since they cover the rainbow spectrum.

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    • “people of color” means non-white not just black.

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      • what happens if a black has a kid with a white? is that kid colored or what? or a white with a chinese (you see plenty of chinese women snagging up white trophy husbands here in america).

  • American Girl has totally ignored the untapped market for dolls representing necrophilia, bestiality, all the various fetishes or the Sharia Law Muslim lifestyle. They aren’t sensitive to the fully diverse needs of Liberals!

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    • just put the doll in a ghost costume and you have a muz doll.

    • Lol really? Bravo on your stawmaning. No mainstream liberal would support such a thing. 

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      • That sarcasm just zoomed right by ya, huh?

  • It’s a BUSINESS, not a social program.  American Girl has no obligation to the public to provide “racial diversity” of ANY kind, as demanded by race-baiting activists and politicians.  Just butt-out of their business.  American Girl knows what they’re doing, and they’re wildly successful at it.  If I ever see some malcontent, politically-correct, Left-wing crybaby earning hundreds of millions of dollars for making kids happy, I MIGHT start to respect Left-wing crybabies – I very seriously doubt THAT is ever going to happen.

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    • Couldn’t have been said better.What are you going to do, stop buying AG dolls because they’re not “ethnic” enough? If they were selling in the first place, they wouldn’t be discontinued.

  • The race baiters need to explain themselves completely this time. The bosses of the company are irredeemably racist, so they are discontinuing certain races in their line up of plastic girls. The go into the warehouse, these bosses, and they see less product diversity..and …they ..are…just…so..gratified? Deeply nourished within their own throbbing racist impulses? What? Do they go home and masturbate in a racist way? Do they meet with their racist friends over coffee and giggle behind their crumpets? Mission accomplished? One of you experts on Caucasian motivation please take me through it without missing a single step.

  • I am concerned that some sniveling victim-mentality LGBT?LMNOXYZ individual doesn’t have their wacko doll being made by this insensitive company!

  • Read between the lines… Business strategy… means they are discontinuing the dolls like Disney “discontinues” popular movies. They want people to think these will be the last of a unique line so they can boost sales. Then, come the next release of new dolls, voila, new “colored” dolls.It’s a marketing ploy that is being misinterpreted as racially motivated by a group of people who will cry foul at anything involving someone who isn’t “white.”

  • If those dolls were not selling then people need to back off.  If Asians and African Americans arent buying then that’s capitalism.  I used to work for Charter Communications and had customer accuse the company of racism by requiring credit checks in poor areas while not requiring it in richer zip codes.  If you think about it, your giving certain benefits to whites than you do brown and black.  That is if you percieve it that way.  Another perception is that these areas were poor and they make up fake names and/or simply do not pay their bills while stealing the equipment the company provdes which is worth 6 months of service fees.  Business is business.  If there was a market they would make the dolls trust me.  Diversity wins more business than racism.  There was an obvious deficiency.  However, don’t expect poor people or people who blame all their lifes woes on color issues to see basic logic. 

  • The newest doll from American Girl is being called Ghettopamus. She’s has a EBT card and Obama phone. Sec 8 doll house is not included!

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • best comment yet!

    • What a FOOL you are!

  • INB4 social justice lynch mob runs the company out of business.

  • Don’t worry. Next year’s collection is featuring ShaQueeQuee and La-a (pronounced ‘La dash a’).

  • their company…their choice

  • M twin daughters both have American Girl dolls. One is a Depression Era doll (Kit) and the other is a hippie from the 60s/70s (Julie). My girls picked them out because of the way they looked. Both have blonde hair while my two girls have brown hair and dark brown hair. Is there a point to my rambling? None other than there is no point to the dolls that little girls like. As to the collectors; I’m even more clueless as to what that’s all about.

  • Diversity DESTROYS. Deal with it.

  • There are Obama Dolls and like most Obama stuff … they are FREE.Free Obama Dolls

  • What’s the problem …. every young girl wishes she was white with blond hair and blue eyes … they aren’t so they want dolls that are.look at all the black women who wear wigs of hair that can only be grown on white women …. what’s that about. Look at the asian women who have their eyes opened wider and dye their hair blond. I have seen a lot of this …. so what’s the big deal with the dolls. If the white dolls need money then you can buy them a Chinese doll, if the white doll need a lacky to do the yard work she can try to find a black doll that will do it, but I think she is going to wind up with a Mexican doll for that.

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    • hahahaha. best post i’ve read in a while! bravo! 

    • Ok we get it, you’re a racist trying to be funny…fail

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    • What trailer park do you live in? Do you know of any trailer parties tonight?

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  • Big deal. They’ve also discontinued two white dolls. Some people see racism everywhere.

  • Shouldn’t they make what is going to sell?

  • That they felt they had to explain a business decision is the sad part of this story.

  • It is “racist” to INSIST that a company be forced to manufacture anything based on the color of skin. Pure racist racebaiting by racists that see nothing but race. Being a racebaiter is a conveniently self-perpetuating occupation; Scream ‘RACISM” from a frothing mouth and point fingers quickly, before people forget or celebrate thier differnces, and actually get along.

  • I have cancer. I wish dolls were my biggest concern in life right now.

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    • Me too, so I look for distractin like this to keep my mind off of it … you can only do so much to deal with cancer each day … don’t spend too much time worrying of feel badly …. this is just a horrid part of life that afflicts too many of us.Best

  • Maybe the African girl dolls didn’t have fat enough butts.

  • I collect Asian dolls and the American Girl “Ivy” doll doesn’t fit the bill.  The features are not ethnic enough to be considered an Asian doll for me.  Corolle makes better Asian looking dolls.

  • Asian doll doesn’t really look asian… doll needs a makeover.

  • “The Facebook post has since spawned more than 1,100 comments”1,100 comments? really? out of how many billion on facebook? it’s infinitesimal…who cares. ?

  • Those two weren’t even part of the early collection of historical dolls, which included a black girl named Addy who was shortly followed by Josefina. Nobody cried when they retired Kirsten or Felicity or Molly!

  • I didn’t get half of the simpering Leftist gibberish from Amy Schiller and Adrienne Raphel but it is sad that little girls who are both Black and Asian do not have loving parent(s) who will purchase Dolls that appeal to them because of their skin color or race.  Sorry but it sounds like this neglectful parents have the problem not the company or society.  I wonder if they were waiting for a federal subsisdy to deal with this outrage? 

  • They compladly but never put up their money.  If you want a black doll, put up your money or shut up.  No one is stopping you.

  • I’ll be real.  Most blacks will NOT buy a doll dressed like that and in those kinds of curls from a company called American Girl.  Just not gonna happen! I guarantee you, it wasn’t selling.  So, when they dropped the doll, the “looking to be offended” crowd made a huff.

  • So now the New Fascists will force a private company to make certian “protected” products? So long American freedom and liberty, welcome fascism.

  • As a doll collector I think that this is good news for the people that have black or asian AG dolls since they will become harder to get & so will go up in value. Everything doesn’t have to be negative & hate filled! Will the haters just please give it a rest!

  • Nice message to business owners. Don’t experement with diversity unless you’re willing to have the continuation of an unsecessful experiment forced down your throat!Don’t believe me. Create a Laura the Lesbian doll, post a picture and then cancel the project and then watch what happens. Watch as a project that didn’t even exist before today becomes a must have Right from today onward!No, libs should be treated like the vampires of myth and they and their ideals should never even be invited in the door. 

  • We need more white players in the NBA.  Racism!!!

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    • Right on bro.  I say also just include some spray paint cans with the dolls if you want them in a different tone.

  • Who wants a black doll or one with a towel on its head? 

  • Fake racism, yet another violation of our rights. The gov’t constantly violates our rights.They violate the 1st Amendment by caging protesters and banning books like “America Deceived II”.They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by allowing TSA to grope you.They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars.Impeach Obama.Last link of “America Deceived II” before it is completely banned:http://www.amazon.com/America-Deceived-II-Possession-interrogation/dp/1450257437

  • I say that the Reverends Al Sharpy and Jesse Philanderer picket the headquarters and demand reparation grants to their bank accounts as the only way to stop this type of discrimination.

  • Smart, competent businesses tend to produce what actually sells! So all you whining race-bating haters out there please do as the post below states….if you thing the dolls of color are a big seller/have a lot of potential please go make them yourself and get rich proving how “smart” you are!!!

  • Grow up race-carders.  If you want a black doll, make one yourself.

  • Companies produce and sell what people want. They are not in business to produce products that people don’t want. If there is a demand for a doll, they will produce it. If there is no demand for this doll, they will discontinue it. Why are for-profit companies so difficult for people to understand? These businesses are in business to make profit – nothing more and nothing less.

  • To all those complainers and perpetually aggrieved, how about you start your own doll companies and sell whatever you want?  If American Girl didn’t have the business success with one doll or another, should they be browbeat into keeping production going just for the insanity of political correctness?  If they offered the dolls to begin with, how does that square with their critics’ complaints?  It doesn’t, but that won’t stop the blamers and panties-in-a-wad crowd.  Good God, this country is off its rocker. 

  • They’re just f*ing dolls! Tell the race baiters to STFU.

  • “Can’t we all just get a long,” long sip of sanity?

  • This is understandable.  Most Americans will do just about anything to escape diversity.  Few Americans will want dolls that remind them of this curse.I will take liberals seriously on race when they all turn over their own jobs to unworthy affirmative action candidates, all move to the ghetto or barrio, and send their own children to gang-infested schools where English is no longer spoken.  Until these things happen, I will reserve the right of Americans to live the way the liberals do.

  • Unless those people who complain want to speak with their wallets, they should remain silent. To my knowledge, American Girls is a for-profit company. The only color they care about is green. Perhaps they should be faulted for even touching the third rail of dollmaking. Four years ago, certain people became irate when it became clear that there was a glut of black Barbies at Walmart. A year or so later, there was another hue and cry from the American Association of the Easily Offended about dollhouse price differentials based on race; this knee-jerk cluelessness was featured in the blog Freakonomics. The laws of supply and demand set prices for these dolls. If they make too many, the equillibrium (i.e. market-clearing) prices will plummet as the retailers scramble to move out their inventory, and the AAEO will complain because the dolls are “less valued.” If they make fewer, the equillibrium price might be the same, or even higher, than the identical-but-for-race doll, but the AAEO will complain because fewer of them were made. And if they simply tire of losing money guessing where the equillibrium price will be, they are vilified for being racists. Perhaps the best response to all this feigned gluteal injury is the one by this lady, who wrote a guide to collecting black dolls. At least now, anyone who wants to complain about the racism inherent in market forces will have to buy her book if they want to be credible.

  • Who cares about stupid dtuff like sales figures.  If all races aren’t represented on all things everywhere, there will obviously be hell to pay.  Welcome to a country inhabited by third-world dolts…

  • A business should be able to make products they want to make and that they think will sell.  Instead of sniveling, those critic could start up their own doll company and make all the “diverse” dolls they want to, or they could just shut up.

  • I don’t imagine that a $200 black doll sells that well.

  • Prepare for a visit from Eric “Steadman” Holder’s Department of InJustice…..and an IRS audit is sure to follow…

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    • Holder is a particularly hypocritical post-American.  Like Obama, he is a mulatto.  When his family lived in Barbados, they assiduously avoided mixing with pure blacks.  It was the same when Holder grew up; his mother did her best to keep Holder away from blacks.  It’s hypocrisy on stilts.

  • Great, now we have a quota system for dolls.

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    • Agit prop gay mafia in government will force manufacture of: Hmsxl dolls and Fed Dept of Ed will force boys to play with them;  Doctor dolls that give abortions to female dolls, extracting fetus dolls;Bureaucrat death panel dolls and the elderly dolls they help die early;But no Conservative dolls that instigate an insurrection to burn tyranny to the ground, those will be home made.

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