Posted by Lindsey Claud, PITTSBURGH, PA – The Strip District is Pittsburgh’s hip hub and a major tourist attraction. It’s a lively place lined with independent stores, cool eateries, and lots of people. One store particularly caught my eye because through its big glass windows you could see a beautiful, colorful mosaic of blown glass wind chimes and figurines suspended from the ceiling. The front of the store did not displease – it was filled with all sorts or lovely, handcrafted knick knacks. But the back had something far less appealing: Mammy dolls. A Mammy is a slave woman who works in the kitchen cooking food for her white owners. Her hair is always tied in a wrap, her attitude is always jolly, and her skin is always as black as night. Popular culture might know her better as Aunt Jemima.I was with my sister and the sight Mammy stopped us in our tracks. Why would a store filled with beautiful stuff have Mammy dolls? We asked the cashier. He had no idea. All he knew was that the Mammy dolls were actually piggy banks and the only way to get at the coins you put in is to smash them. “Perhaps they were made in China,” he said. He knew nothing about what a Mammy symbolized and how disrespectful and mocking the dolls are to African American people and our history. Well, that day he found out. He listened and shrugged, telling us that the Mammies weren’t selling very well anyway. Mammy may not stigmatize our culture the same way it did before the Civil Rights Movement, but the fact that the dolls in this store were meant to be smashed and shattered speaks to the hidden racism that remains in our ‘color blind’ society. To some the Mammy is not a big deal anymore, but to me it signifies the long way we have come, and the long way we still have to go.
Lindsey Claud is a junior at GeorgiaStateUniversity. She is majoring in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in Race and Urban Studies. Lindsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org