A Playmobil pirate ship set has sparked a firestorm over a figurine that resembles an African American slave wearingÂ a neck shackle.
Ida Lockett of Sacramento, Calif., said her 5-year-old son received the toy as a birthday present, and when she was helping him assemble it, she noticed the instructions â€” telling her to put a play shackle around the figureâ€™s neck.
â€œThis right here was found on his neck,â€ she told CBS Sacramento about the piece.
â€œYou cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else.Â The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is â€” itâ€™s a slave collar.â€
The toyâ€™sÂ instruction manual shows a dark-skinned doll wearing no shoes, ripped pants and a tattered yellow shirt and directsÂ the assembler to pop the silver piece around its neck. The ship appears to include a dungeon.
â€œItâ€™s definitely racist,â€ Lockett told the CBS affiliate. â€œIt told my son to put a slave cuff around the black characterâ€™s neck, and then to play with the toy.â€
Playmobil said in a statement to The Washington Post that the toy was intendedÂ to portray lifeÂ on a 17th-century pirate ship.
â€œIf you look at the box, you can see that the pirate figureÂ is clearly a crew member on the pirate ship and not a captive,â€ according to the statement. â€œThe 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.â€
Toys R Us could not immediately be reached for comment.
Aimee Norman, the aunt who gave the set to the Sacramento 5-year-old, wrote on the Playmobil USA Facebook pageÂ thatÂ she was â€œMORTIFIED to have recently boughtâ€ the pirate ship set for her nephew, â€œonly to hear that when assembling it, they found that its assembly instructions indicate to add the neck cuff/shackle to the black characterâ€™s neck.â€
â€œWOW,â€ she wrote. â€œWould it be too much to ask for you to just create a regular old black pirate?
â€œNewsflash, Playmobil: this is the 21st century. 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 childrenâ€™s toys that are suggestive of slavery in play is obscene, even moreso given the marked absence of diversity in your entire toy line.â€
Norman added: â€œ#Slavery.is.not.a.game.â€
Sacramento NAACP President Stephen Webb said he wants the toy banned.
â€œThis is deplorable,â€ he told CBS Sacramento. â€œThis cannot be accepted, and it needs to be pulled off the shelf.â€
But not everybody agrees.
â€œYou do realize that pirates took slaves & prisoners of all races right?â€ one woman wrote on the Playmobil USA Facebook page. â€œIf you donâ€™t like the idea of pirates and slaves/prisoners then a pirate ship toy is not for you. Also a child has imaginative play and can easily make said character anything he/she wants them to be. Throw away the offending pieces.â€
This story has been updated.