An honest take on life and parenthood

What’s up with that, Fisher Price?

on May 16, 2012

This past Christmas, the Pooh received a charming Little People Fisher Price zoo, with plastic trees and swings and slides for rubber animals. It makes cool animal sounds and plays music, and also has a jeep. She loves it.

Now imagine my horror when I saw the Little People who came with the zoo and the jeep.

The jeep came with a smiling blond zoologist, with a cool hat and neat safari uniform. Let’s call him Brady.

The zoo came with a smiling brown-skinned man with black hair and a curly mustache, with a baseball hat and work clothes. Let’s call him Jose.

I looked once. I looked twice. Yup, no mistaking it. Jose was clearly the worker. You can’t tell me that Brady was mucking out stalls of zebra poop and feeding the gorillas. No way, man.  Brady was noting important observations on his iPad while trying out his rudimentary Spanish with Jose. “Uh, Jose. The bear needs agua! Si! Gracias!”

In this very subtle way, Fisher Price gets a chance to help form our children’s expectations of themselves and others at an incredibly young age. The Pooh was not even two when she received this gift.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I get prickly when I see this stuff. I am Mexican-American and very proud of my heritage. I am also well-educated and a white collar professional. There are many more Latinos like me out there, but sadly, there are a preponderance of us who drop out of school, never make it to college, and stay stuck at lower income brackets for a myriad of reasons.

So I am really annoyed that Fisher Price would reinforce low expectations of Latinos by creating this particular character for its zoo. Non-Latino kids learn that brown-skinned people do menial work, and are not zoologists. Latino kids learn their place. Both sets of kids have absorbed a set of expectations from Fisher Price that will need to be undone by parents and teachers and society.

And many of them will not be so lucky.

The Pooh will be lucky. She already knows that she is going to college. She knows that she has to work very hard in school if she wants to go to Yale like Mommy.  She will be very proud of her Mexican heritage, and she will learn all about the cultural and literary greats of Latin culture.

But there are a lot of Latino kids out there who will need to persevere through a forest of low expectations in order to do better than their parents did. And when low expectations come packaged as bright plastic toys, it can be very difficult to take them out of tiny hands.

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