Racist Black Rag Dolls Meant For Abuse Pulled From NJ Shelves

A dollar store in New Jersey is under fire after selling Black rag dolls that encouraged people to slam the toy against a wall and take out their frustrations on it. The “Feel Better Dolls” were pulled from at least three stores following complaints from shoppers and a lawmaker.

The racist dolls were made from black fabric and had red, green, black, and yellow yarn hair, with white eyes and a big smile. The “Feel Better Doll” featured directions in the front that instructed buyers to abuse the doll “whenever things don’t go well and you want to hit the wall and yell.” “Just grab it firmly by the legs and find a wall to slam the doll, and as you whack the ‘feel good doll’ do not forget to yell I FEEL GOOD, I FEEL GOOD,” the label on the doll read.

State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, a Democrat who represents Bayonne and Jersey City, said she visited a store to see the dolls first hand. In a statement posted on July 22, she said that she spoke to a store’s general manager and had the dolls removed from shelves.

“This doll is offensive and disturbing on so many levels. It is clearly made in an inappropriate representation of a Black person and instructs people to ‘slam’ and ‘whack’ her,” McKnight said in her statement. “Racism has no place in the world and I will not tolerate it, especially not in this district.”

McKnight said she was “truly disheartened by the thought of a Black child being beaten by another child or an adult for pure pleasure” after seeing the doll in person. “To have a product depict or teach children that it is OK to hit another child, regardless of race, in order to feel good is sick,” McKnight said. “Dolls should be a symbol of love, care, and affection.”

Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said in a Facebook post that McKnight contacted him about the racist doll and that they made sure the doll was pulled from the shelves of the Bayonne store.

“Aside from the shock of seeing such an insensitive product being sold in our community, I am grateful for the people that saw it and said something immediately! I also want to thank Assemblywoman McKnight for her quick response and assistance,” Davis wrote. “We will not tolerate any symbol of hate and division within our community!” he added. Ricky Shah, president of One Dollar Zone, told The Associated Press (AP) that approximately 1,000 dolls were pulled from store shelves in Bayonne and two other locations in New Jersey.

Shah apologized for the dolls’ appearance at the stores and said they were removed on July 22. “One Dollar Zone deeply apologizes for this incident,” Shah told CNN. The One Dollar Zone owner said the Paterson-based company did not check a large shipment of items it received well before distributing them to stores. The dolls were part of an order of about 35,000 pieces of closeout merchandise, he told the AP.

“This somehow slipped through the cracks,” Shah said. The company added that the racist dolls, which were manufactured by Harvey Hutter Co., also came in two other colors: green and yellow.

Harvey Hutter Co. no longer has a website and appears to have gone out of business. The doll’s supplier, Global Souvenir Marketing, has not commented on the dolls. One Dollar Zone did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. The company runs more than two dozen stores in the Northeast, including in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

There’s a sad history over the perception of Black dolls in the US. In the 1940, two psychologists conducted a series of experiments known as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on Black children.

Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark questioned children between the ages of three to seven and asked them to identify the race of different dolls and choose a doll they preferred. A majority of the children surveyed chose the white doll and gave it positive characteristics, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. The psychologists’ study concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused African American children to feel inferior and damaged their self-esteem.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.