I received this beautiful Chinese doll (dressed in traditional emperess dress) as a wonderful gift from a new young friend (5th grade).
It reminded me of being called a “China doll” when I was a little girl. I liked the name. It was better than being called a chink! Later, when I led diversity workshops, we addressed stereotypes and discussed how even positive ones, like being a whiz kid, a model minority, or a chinadoll–all common Asian stereotypes–could be harmful and limiting.
As an adult Asian female, I was lucky to be on the receiving end of mostly positive, complimentary stereotypes–attractive, smart and privileged (had a car, house, job). So I didn’t think much about the broader impact or pitfalls of these generalizations–on other Asians or other “minority” groups, who didn’t fit the stereotype or were shadowed by negative assumptions. Through my work in the Asian community, I learned that lliteracy, domestic abuse, health epidemics and poverty were prevalent among several Asian ethnic groups in urban areas, yet the problems were often “invisible” or underfunded.
Or worse yet, “minority” or special interest groups were pitted against one another to compete for limited resources and the prevalence of misleading stereotypes, even positive ones, led to tension and prejudice among the very groups that would be better served collaborating rather than competing.
Being called a chinadoll was still better than being called a chink (or worse).Â In a complicated modern world, it’s nearly impossible to avoid generalizations.Â And the reason stereotypes are powerful and persistent is because they are true, to some degree. But in the end, stereotypes cheapen us as individuals. We all like to feel and be recognized as unique, as we truly are!