What does Asian look like?

This is one of the many dolls that inhabit my abode. This one is suppose to be Asian-looking. Can you tell?

The whole attempt at trying to create ethnically or racially sensitive dolls is interesting. It’s entirely understandable, giving kids the opportunity to identify with the dolls they play with, at least at the level of physical appearance. In the case of this Asian doll, however, I can’t help but think that there is something awry about the whole phenomenon.

How is this doll Asian or, maybe, Asian American? Can we depict Asian American-ness? Is being Asian American a function of how one looks? If that’s the case, then what does Asian American look like? Playing that game seems rather perilous, ripe for reinforcing stereotypes, creating insider and outsider boundaries based on something as plastic as appearance. We shouldn’t assume that’s all there is to being Asian American, or any other ethnic, racial identity.

Originally posted on tumblr.com, January 2015

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