Last weekend, we took the kiddos on a mini-vacation to an indoor water park – one that my son excitedly referred to as “Grape Wolf Lodge”.
Everybody had a lot of fun. The five-year old loved the water slides, the 2-year-old liked dumping buckets of water on people, and the 1-year-old enjoyed playing in the water. Family fun for everyone, and something we’re likely to do again.
But one thing from the trip is sticking with me.
In the room, they had a little promotion for Shutterfly. There was a sample of a photo book and a coupon to create your own for free. As you likely know, Shutterfly photo books are a digital scrapbook where you upload pictures to create a very nice looking book. I’ve created multiple Shutterfly photo books, as I make one at the end of the year showcasing pictures of the kids from each month.
Our kids love books, and love looking at the Shutterfly books I’ve created, so naturally they spent some time in the room flipping through the sample book. The sample book was a scrapbook of a faux-family’s visit to Grape Wolf: Here are the water slides. Here we are hugging the costumed characters. Here is somebody swimming in the pool. Here are the kids and their new friends in some group activity, and so on.
I didn’t think too much of it until I was flipping through with our one year old. That’s when I noticed something odd. As I was going through the various pages, I was only seeing white faces in the pictures. Friends and regular readers know that all of our children have at least one birth parent of color.
About halfway through the book, I semi-jokingly said “Let’s look for the people of color in this book”. I kept flipping pages and wasn’t seeing anyone who wasn’t lily-white. Not finding anybody, I started over at the beginning. This time, I looked closely at each photo (probably three or four per page) and carefully scanned the group activity photos for any children of color (black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, hell – anything other than white). I kept coming up empty.
Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I found a woman of color. I couldn’t really tell her ethnicity (African-American? A Latin America country?), but she was definitely not white. This was good.
But wait…what is this woman doing? Oh, she’s giving little Susie an ice cream cone. The lone person of color in the sample photo book is an employee. That is not so good. But at least she looked happy to be serving ice cream to all those white kids at White Wolf Lodge* for minimum wage!
*White Wolf Lodge, where your ice cream choices are vanilla, vanilla chip, vanilla mint, and white chocolate!
Now, let’s clear some things up: I’m not “outraged” by this. I’m not sharing this to raise a stink, or bring negative attention to Shutterfly or Great Wolf Lodge – two companies whose products and services I will continue to use.
And yes, I have mocked ads and publications that use awkward diversity pictures – you know, that group shot of the black kid, the Asian kid, the Indian kid, the Hispanic girl, etc. all hanging out in front of the student union instead of in their own racially segregated groups? (In the past, I’ve derisively called that a “United Nations” photo). Trust me, I’m not saying that there needs to a specific quota of minority children per Shutterfly demo book.
I’m under no illusion (or conspiracy theory) that non-white, non-employee faces were intentionally excluded, or that either of these fine companies is racist. I’m pretty sure that the only color they really care about is green (which helps to explain the expensive prices at the lodge: $4.99 for a side of fresh fruit at the pool bar? Really?).
But it sure would be nice if my kids, or the dozens of other non-white kids we saw last weekend, could see themselves represented in the sample “My Awesome Vacation at Grape Wolf Lodge” photo book – even if they’re just hanging out in the background. I don’t want them to think that the only way they could ever return to Grape Wolf Lodge (without their white parents) is as an employee.