A lego police car

Lego Says They’re Not Pulling Their Police-Themed Sets … But Shouldn’t They?

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As brands trip over themselves to put up hastily written, empty statements about standing with Black protesters and Black employees (while, in many cases, still refusing to engage in fair hiring practices, pay those employees equally, work to create a non-hostile work environment, etc, etc), a few companies have stood out in a positive way. The Criterion Collection removed their paywall for Black films. Ben & Jerry’s wrote a lengthy statement about the need to dismantle white supremacy.

There were reports earlier this week that Lego was joining the ranks of companies willing to take action, and doing away with all police-themed sets, plus the White House set.

As it turns out, that’s not the case. Lego only asked its affiliates to pause digital marketing on those sets, not remove them entirely. They are also donating $4 million to “organizations dedicated to supporting Black children and educating all children about racial equality,” which is admirable.

But the question stands: Should Lego remove its police-themed sets?

I’m sure the very question will enrage a lot of people. But police-themed toys set up an unrealistic view of police forces as fun, frivolous agencies and that’s simply not reality.

Last fall, Kmart pulled a “child bride” costume that should never have been in production in the first place, because some things are just really weird and harmful when marketed as children’s toys. Just because this country has a long history of police-themed toys doesn’t mean they’re above reexamining. And right now sure seems like the right time to reexamine a lot of things.

Lego said their police sets “could be perceived insensitive if promoted during this time.” At what time wouldn’t that be insensitive? That comment rests on an assumption that eventually the outrage over George Floyd’s death will die down but as we all know, that doesn’t mean the police are going to stop killing Black people. Police brutality has been a problem for centuries and it’s not an issue of “a few bad apples.” The problem is institutional. So how is it a good or fun idea to turn that institution into toys for children?

(image: Ken Whytock on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.