When last we checked in with American Girl™®© they were selling a doll which they described as homeless for a mere $95. But that’s so 2009. They are kicking off this year with their 2011 Girl Of The Year®, Kanani Akina™ who “loves welcoming visitors to her Hawaiian home.” No big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Kanani has dark blonde hair, brown eyes and a skin color that suggests a health-minded approach to tanning. In other words, she doesn’t look in the least bit like actual native Hawaiians who usually have black hair, black eyes and a darker skin color. It is especially odd that American Girl™®© decided to call American Surfer Girl Hawaiian at a time when The World’s Most Famous Hawaiian (and Leader of The Free World™®©) is known for his surfeit of melanin.
In Hawaiian Kanani means"the beautiful one." Apparently the beautiful one in Hawaii is Haole. While her last name, Akina, may sound Hawaiian it is actually Japanese (another group known primarily for black hair and eyes and a distinctly non-Caucasian skin tone). So American Girl™®© just decided to appropriate some ethnic sounding names, put a flower in the doll’s hair and call it Hawaiian. Aznuts, as the Hawaiians say. Hell, even Disney – which has a very long history of messing up on ethnic issues — was able to do this right.
This doll was brought to my attention by my wife, Jennifer — aka “Mrs. CollateralDamage” aka “Broke Hoedown” aka “One of Those Darn Cats” – who has spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii and so was totally flabbergasted when she came across it that her eyes did that Tex Avery thing. For that, at least, I can say, “Well done, American Girl™®©!”
BTW, Soong-Chan Rah has a wonderful tale of a parent and child dealing with American Girl’s issues around ethnicity. Highly recommended.