Once upon a time I was babysitting my 12 year-old cousin and I took her to the mall for food and window shopping. This was around the time Enchanted came out so of course the walls were lined with Giselle. Not that I particularly minded, Enchanted was a good film.
So at any rate, I was casually browsing some of the outfits they had out and pick out this pink sparkly dress meant to be Aurora’s. I said, “Hey, Destiny, why don’t you wear this for Halloween?”
I should note I was just joking because this was the age where she was rebelling against dresses but rather than to comment on that she simply replied with, “That isn’t for me.”
I thought she was talking about the fact that I was holding up a dress so I pressed on, “Aw why not? C’mooon! I’m sure it’ll look great on you! Oh we could get you a nice tiara and sparkly heels-“
But she shook her head and went, “That’s only for white girls.”
Of course it was the initial line that took me by surprise, but even moreso was the sheer matter-of-factness that was in her voice. She wasn’t even fazed by it and talked as if was telling me some fact that I must have missed in a memo.
She went on to look at the TV screen but I kept going through the outfits thinking that maybe Jasmine or Pocahontas or Mulan would work, but that wasn’t the problem.
The problem IS that she is the so-called target audience for a store in which she found nothing for her and she accepted it as a fact.
The problem IS that all of this princess stuff isn’t FOR her.
The problem IS that I went through this revelation when I was her age and I thought that it would have ended a long time ago.
The problem IS that they rejoiced in Tiana only to get three more non-POC princesses.
And the problem is that all of this will CONTINUE to be and I just don’t know if I would be able to stand watching my two year-old niece realize this herself.
Because we’re Mexican, we’re mixed, we’re African-American, but most importantly we’re not white.
So you know what? No. Fuck YOU.
Because I WAS a kid. These princess movies WERE created for me, my cousins, my niece, and damn near every other little girl I have know in my lifetime.
And we were NEVER a part of their formula.
We are NEVER going to be a part of their formula.
I’m sick of this shit. I want to see this shit change and I’m not going to sit around waiting for it to change.
I am going to raise hell and I will bust my ass through school and I will get my degree and I will get into the animation industry and I will fight my absolute hardest to help in the change because if there’s one thing I never want to see again is a kid questioning why movies refuse to acknowledge their existence.
So you sit the fuck down and you shut the fuck up and you go through hearing this shit from four different kids and then you see if you can get off your fucking ass and say that shit to me again.
Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.
Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it."