Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ethnic Role Models-the Reprise!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of ethic role models for children by relating how my daughter responded to receiving a doll-Wan Ling. Some people thought that it was a shame that my daughter's self-esteem was buoyed by a look-alike doll and not from her inner strength-or my parenting!

In response to one of the poll questions, one person wrote about a friend who's nephew has down syndrome child:I think not seeing images of kids like himself--I think this also goes for physically challenged --in movies, cartoons, and especially animated movies (his favorite) really does a disservice to him and other children who are only use to seeing images that look like only like themselves.

But perhaps the most important comment came from an astute 12 year old girl who joined her family from China via adoption from China. Melody was responding to the comments made about American Girl's new "Asian" doll, Ivy Ling-a sidekick to another American Girl doll named Julie:

My Mom bought me the Julie books and the Ivy book several weeks ago. I like that there are some Asian influences in the books, especially, the one called, "Happy New Year, Julie", but I found that the majority of the books barely expressed the fact that Ivy was Chinese. Some of the books barely mentioned Ivy at all. I would like for AG to come out with a historical, Chinese-American doll that is not just a side-kick.

This is not about all of us looking alike. And, it is true that some Asian characteristics are more prominent in some people. In fact, Ivy looks great as a bi-racial doll. It would be fine if one of her parents was Caucasian and the other Chinese. But remember, Ivy Ling is not a bi-racial doll. She has two full, Chinese parents. All of the adopted Chinese-American children that I have ever met have certain characteristics such as almond-shaped eyes, and I would like a doll to look like that.

It is easy for us to make judgements about what others-who may be different than-us feel should be important. But until we walk in their shoes, we have to listen to what matters to the people directly effected. Until we can do that, it is all too easy to pass off ethnic role models and people-first language as political correctness on steroids.

In the case of ethnic role models, it seems that kids feel that they need more.

I hope people listen.

With Respect,

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