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Baby K'Tan packaging sparks debate over African-American family structure

This photo of the Baby K'Tan products on a store's shelf caused sparked controversy on Monday, June 23, 2014.
This photo of the Baby K'Tan products on a store's shelf caused sparked controversy on Monday, June 23, 2014.

On Monday, June 23, 2014, a photo showing packages of Baby K'Tan carriers on the shelf of an unidentified store began spreading around the internet. One package shows an African-American woman holding her baby. The other package shows a Caucasian mother holding her baby, with her Hispanic mate standing behind her. The stark contrast in the juxtaposition of the packages, raised alarm on social media.

There were cries of racism, poor marketing, and the never-ceasing debate about African-American family structure. The company posted the following response to the hubbub:

Response to Recent Misrepresentations

Posted on June 23, 2014

It has come to our attention that there is a misleading photo circulating around the internet. Our company takes these matters very seriously and wishes to address them without any further delay.

The photo in question shows two Baby K’tan Baby Carriers on the shelf at an unidentified retailer. One Baby K’tan product features an African American woman holding her baby, and the other Baby K’tan product features a Caucasian couple with their baby. This portrayal has left many of our loyal patrons concerned that this is an unfair representation of African American families. Furthermore, the box bearing the African American woman was inaccurately priced lower than the box with the Caucasian couple. Let’s address these pressing matters head on:

1) We have a total of 5 different products, each featuring a different image on the front of the packaging. One box has the Caucasian couple on the front, and the other four boxes have individual mothers with their babies on the front (including African American and Caucasian women).

2) The Baby K’tan product featuring the African American woman is from our organic line which should actually be priced higher than the other product displayed.

3) The couple considered to be Caucasian is actually in fact an international couple, featuring a Caucasian mom and a Hispanic dad.

Our company was built and has prospered because of our focus on diversity and inclusion. We wholeheartedly reject any false, unfounded and baseless claims of discrimination as depicted in the above misrepresentation. We here at Baby K’tan fully support exposing any unfair and inaccurate stereotypes, racism and/or discrimination wherever it may exist.

We plan to continue including diverse parents, both individually and as couples, throughout our images. In fact, we are proud to have such wholesome and loving caregivers as the faces of our company.

What caused the controversy?

The origination of the photo that has been circulating is unknown. However, the story that person wanted to tell is apparent. The stark contrast of the images involving a "single" African-American mother and a "coupled" Caucasian mother, will always get tongues wagging. The truth behind the packaging is that Baby K'Tan features packaging and advertising with just mom and baby, advertising with just dad and baby, and advertising with couples. (View the Baby K'Tan photo gallery)

People began to read racism into the message that was"obviously" being sent. Many felt that the business was pushing tropes that are continuously pushed in this society: African-American women cannot get a husband and African-American fathers are absent. People have gone so far as to post the ever-circulating statistics of single-parent African-American homes, and decided that Baby K'Tan was merely trying to service that huge demographic.

What occurred, as usual, was a lot of finger-pointing, labeling, and anger...when a few questions asked could have resolved the controversy. Unfortunately,people do not like asking questions. People are visual and prone to histrionics. This emotional response also occurs when looking at the statistics regarding African-American family structure. No one ever bothers to ask questions. Everyone jumps to emotion-laden conclusions.

What do the numbers really tell us about African-American parental involvement?

Has anyone ever wondered whether or not the statistics regarding single-female led African-American households really mean that African-American dads are only missing from the home, but present in the child's life? The answer to that question is: Yes, someone has wondered, and there is even a study that answers this question.

In March of this year, The New York Times published an opinion piece, "Misleading Stereotypes About Black Dads" by Kenrya Rankin Naasel, that included a study from the CDC. In her piece, Naasel writes:

Yes, more than half of black households are headed by women, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that whether or not they live under the same roof, black dads are actually more involved with their children than their white and Latino counterparts, spending more time feeding, dressing, playing with and reading to their children.

This does not change the other numbers that impact African-American children. Fathers are extremely important, as outlined by Naasel:

...when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, they are less likely to experience cognitive delays, more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to experience success in their chosen careers and less likely to be involved in violent situations as teens. They also have increased empathy, self-esteem and self-control.

If fathers are more involved than initially thought, then what has caused the issues with African-American children seen through other statistics and studies? Could it be that family structure is at the core of these matters, more so than absentee fathers? Children from "broken" homes tend to have similar issues that are repeatedly reported regarding African-American children.

Over a decade ago, studies from the Center for Law and Social Policy showed that, "on average, children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents who have low-conflict relationships."

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