A Plymobil pirate ship set has sparked outrage over a dark-skinned figurine that appears to be wearing a slave collar.
After a mother complained about the toy being racist, the Canadian toy maker explained that the figurine was meant to represent a pirate who was a former slave, but in a historical context.
Ida Lockett of Sacramento, California, said her 5-year-old son received the Playmobil toy for his birthday from his aunt, who purchased it from Toys R Us for $62.99 (the toy normally retails for $89.99). While reading the instructions on how to put the play set together, she saw where it said to place a shackle around the figure’s neck, who also had no shoes and appeared to have ragged clothing, according to CBS Sacramento.
“He was excited when he got it,” Lockett said. “I spent the weekend putting it together.”
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“This right here was found on his neck,” she said of the slave collar. “You cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else,” she continued, adding that the ship came complete with a “dungeon.” “The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is—it’s a slave collar.”
“It’s definitely racist. It told my son to put a slave cuff around the black character’s neck, and then to play with the toy.”
Playmobil issued a statement to the Washington Post, saying that the figurine was meant to be a part of the crew on the 17th-century pirate ship, not a slave.
“If you look at the box, you can see that the pirate figure is clearly a crew member on the pirate ship and not a captive,” Playmobil’s statement regarding the slave collar read. “The figure was meant to represent a pirate who was a former slave in a historical context. It was not our intention to offend anyone in anyway.”
Aimee Norman, the young boy’s aunt, wrote a message to Playmobil on their Facebook page about her recent purchase. She said she is “mortified” that she ever bought the toy, and can’t believe they would sell something to children that depicts slavery.
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“I am MORTIFIED to have recently bought your Pirate Ship Set 5135 for my nephew only to hear that when assembling it, they found that its assembly instructions indicate to add the neck cuff/shackle to the black character’s neck,” she wrote. “I suppose it’s optional as to whether a kid chooses to then place said character into chains or into a prison cell at the bottom of the ship.”
“Newsflash, Playmobil: this is the 21st century,” Aimee continued, adding that she bought this particular ship because it was the only one that actually included a black figurine. “People of African descent have contributed to mankind in a myriad of ways that existed outside of the disgusting institution of the slave trade. Selling children’s toys that are suggestive of slavery in play is obscene, even moreso given the marked absence of diversity in your entire toy line.”
Ida and Aimee are hoping to raise awareness to the toy and its racist characteristics and have it removed from the store’s shelves. Do you think the Playmobil pirate ship toy is offensive and racist? Leave your comments below.
[Photo via Facebook]