How GI Joe became a powerful lesson on racial equality

March 26, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

In the mid '60s, I was a young boy. The Vietnam war was in full swing and most young kids played army games and imagined themselves as heros.

Hasbro came out with a line of dolls for boys called GI Joe dolls. They had all kinds of accessories like pistols, rifles, a web belt, knives, etc. For the first couple of years of manufacturing, the only dolls available were Caucasian. They did eventually bow to pressure and made an African-American GI Joe doll. 

Around this time, I really wanted a GI Joe figure and begged my mom to get me one. One day, she came home from work and told me she had bought me the GI Joe figure I wanted so badly.

I hurried tore open the bag and much to my disappointment the figure was not the Caucasian doll I had so desperately wanted. Instead it was an African-American figure. I told her I didn't want it. I wanted the "white" one. She wouldn't budge. She asked me what the color of the doll had to do with me playing with an action figure. I didn't even know why but I just wanted a white one and I cried and cried and begged and begged but she would not relent. She told me if she took it back that I would not be getting a replacement. So I took that "black" GI Joe and I played with it and it didn't dawn on me - at the time - the message she was trying to teach. She just let it slowly sink into my mind at my own pace.

It wasn't until years later, as a teenager that I remembered what she had done, and marveled in the powerful lesson she had taught me.

I just hope I was able to convey these same, powerful lessons to my children!

-Jack


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