Because I’ve always been uncomfortable with homogeneity, and I want my son to feel the same way. Even as young children, my sister and I would shift uncomfortably and point out when we were among only white people. For example, at age 10 as my sister scanned the crowd at a local church’s holiday craft fair, she announced, “It’s going to be a very white Christmas.”
When it comes time to open presents, I don’t want all my son’s Christmases to be white. I want him to have a variety of playthings that are fun and educational and sustainable. And I want people of color to be represented on and among these toys because as a Californian that’s the world he lives in.
The Multicultural Toybox also represents my commitment to human and civil rights. I grew up in a household that, while not explicitly antiracist, embraced progressive values. I remember asking my mother in first grade: “What’s a fag?” After ascertaining I had heard this word on the playground, she explained that “fag” is a derogatory term for gays, and that I shouldn’t use it. And I asked her about gays, and she said “It’s when a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman. And that’s okay.”
My interest in cultural differences, in whiteness, and in gender led me to pursue (and finish!) a Ph.D. in cultural studies. Much of what you read on this site is informed by the lessons I learned in graduate school, both in class and, much more informally, as the only white person in my cohort of students. I do not write The Multicultural Toybox to “represent” or to show, in the phrase of one of my classmates, that I am “down with the brown.” Rather, The Multicultural Toybox represents a genuine search for a better world that begins with children’s playthings.
Truth be told, I care as much about ethical toys as I do about multicultural toys. We can’t always afford to keep to the most stringent standards for ethical toys, and friends and family give my son mass-produced toys that are made of plastic (and, as we learned recently from the toy recalls, lead paint) and come only with white dolls and figurines. These days, it’s expensive to have a conscience. But I try anyway, and I invite you to join me on the journey.
If you have any questions or suggestions for improving the site, or if you just want to share with me a link to a relevant toy you’ve found or created, you can always direct them to me at leslie AT multiculturaltoybox DOT com. If you own a toy store or market a line of toys or dolls, I’d be happy to discuss advertising options with you.
Many thanks for your readership.