Episode 6 of Reappropriate: The Podcast is now live! This episode features a great conversation between myself and Cayden Mak (@Cayden) of 18MillionRising. We talk identity formation in an increasingly digital age, as well as digital tools as one of several tools in an activist toolbox. We briefly touch on the Stephen Salaita controversy in relation to the perils of when digital activism crosses over into the real-world.
Next episode: Please join me in two weeks’ time when I hope to have a conversation about the third rail in AAPI politics: interracial dating. Guests are still being scheduled, so episode time and link are TBA.
The individual stories coming out of Gaza are horrifying. Earlier this week, Gaza’s only power plant was targeted by Israeli airstrikes, leaving most Gaza residents with no electricity or running water. A United Nations school was struck, killing 16 Palestinians. Refugee camps and hospitals have not found themselves immune to attack. Efforts at a cease-fire have failed.
Last week, I wrote about the moral responsibility of all humans to speak out against these horrific deaths, and how I find myself empathizing with the Palestinian civilians and children of the Gaza Strip who have borne the brunt of the attacks and suffered the greatest share of deaths in this conflict. I spoke about the “blood memory” of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who know firsthand the devastating impact of war and colonialism which has throughout our history taken countless lives and ripped apart too many families. I spoke about the emotional responsibility of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and indeed all humans, to not stand idly by while the death toll from this senseless slaughter continues to rise in the Gaza Strip.
American Girl is a doll line started in 1986 by the Pleasant Company, and which was subsequently acquired by Mattel in 1998. Heralded as an attempt to infuse their dolls with progressivism and education, each of the 18″ American Girl dolls is sold with an accompanying booklet featuring a first-person narrative about a specific period in American history. Through the books and dolls, we learn about the American Revolution, slavery, and the Great Depression from a young female perspective.
Although early dolls have drawn from historical periods, in 1995, the doll line expanded with a line of contemporary dolls: American Girls of Today which was later rebranded as Just Like You, and finally My American Girl (which, along with the few named doll characters, includes a customizable line of dolls). This doll line features over sixty dolls with a variety of hair colour and skin tones, and Mattel asserted that this would “represent the individuality and diversity of today’s American girls”. Parents, the company said, would be able to let “every girl create a truly special doll that’s just right for her”.
Unfortunately, the truth is that My American Girl dolls really don’t represent the American girls of today. They aren’t just like us. They really do a terrible job of representing the individuality and diversity of today’s American girls.
I recently remarked to a longtime Twitter friend that I feel we live in a magical time, and I always wonder if young movement folks in the past felt that way, too. My friend suggested that not every generation gets to feel that way but there are definitely moments that people live through when they know they are in a magical time. I feel confident saying we live in one such time, but there’s still a question of what we’re going to do with that magic.
The internet has played no small part in the moment we’re in. More than ever, young people are connected to each other, having conversations about the things that matter to us, from pop music to police violence. We’re realizing there are more of us than there are of them, and that’s an incredibly hopeful thing. We live in a time of rapid reinvention, and at a moment when the conversations we are having online—for better or worse—are catching the attention of the mainstream.
For me, the internet always filled the gap between the community where I live and the one I long for. Growing up, finding my peers in the suburban Michigan town where my mom bought a house after she and my dad divorced was a challenge. I didn’t lack for friends, but there were conversations I wanted that I just couldn’t have with them. I was itching to define my politics, which is something I ultimately found online.