Dear Cloth Diaper Community,
I quickly fell in love with you when I began my research into cloth diapers back in December, as I prepared for the arrival of my first baby. I soon found what a supportive, positive, and empowering community you are. Now nearly five months postpartum, I rely on you greatly, not just for booty duty needs, but also NCDR parenting support (that's "non-cloth diaper related" for those of you not yet familiar with the many CD acronyms). From the inspiring owners of thoughtful cloth diaper companies, to the parents in Facebook groups that are quick to lend support and answers to questions, I truly love you so much. For that reason, I feel I must ask you something that has bothered me since the first time I came across it.
In the beginning of my cloth diaper journey, I learned that there are many wonderful companies started by parents who just wanted to design a better diaper for their babies. These companies are socially and environmentally conscious, and make quality diapers. Some of these companies manufacture their diapers in their respective countries or "responsibly in China." There are also companies and brands that make cheaper diapers, both in quality and price, and are made in China, though perhaps not necessarily responsibly with fair wages and good working conditions. The term for these diapers is "China Cheapies." The first time I heard this phrase my gut immediately knotted up. I did not like it at all.
As a Chinese-American, I find this term problematic. At first, I tried to ignore my own sensitivities, thinking that maybe I'm just being too sensitive, because the term "China Cheapies" describes the product exactly--diapers made in China that are cheap. I don't own any of these diapers, so I can't really speak to the quality of them. However, in my research, I deduced that they are cheap in price because they are also cheaper in quality, and probably produced by cheap labor. That being said, these diapers are widely popular and used. They make cloth diapering affordable, and for many of us who turn to cloth--myself included--budget matters.
It recently occurred to me why this phrase bothers me so much, though. You may have heard of the term "Model Minority." That sounds like a positive term, but it's actually a condescending and divisive term. It was coined in the 1960's to pit Asians against Blacks. And it's also harmful to Asians who don't fit the Model Minority mold. More recently, our President used the phrase Kung Flu to refer to COVID-19. That one is blatantly racist. The first person to use the phrase “China Cheapies” probably didn't mean any harm, at least I hope not. But terms like this fall into the same category as "Model Minority" and "Kung Flu," whether intentional or not. Maybe "China Cheapies" isn't meant to be derogatory, but for some of us it is. I heard someone say recently that it's not always our intentions that matter, but how our words or action are received.
"China Cheapies" is harmful, because it plays into all the negativity we hear about China and that negatively affects Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans. It invites racism. Racist attacks against Asians have been on the rise during the pandemic because our president and certain media outlets invited it. And I'm not saying there aren't bad things about China or that we can't speak of them. As I type this, there is a major human rights violation being committed against a group of people, and it's disgusting. But, there's addressing issues, and then there's inviting and fanning the flames of racism.
I worry that the negative connotations, though unintentional, with the phrase "China Cheapies' can have a negative effect on Chinese-American and other Asian-American children. I, myself, have struggled quite a lot with my racial identity, especially while growing up, due to a combination of blatant and even traumatic racism, along with every day casual racism. It intensifies the duality that all hyphenated Americans live with--living between cultures, but never being fully accepted into either. I'm American, born and raised, but I can't tell you how many times I've been treated like a foreigner in my own country--and not in a good way. Yet, whenever I visit my mother's family in Taiwan, I'm still considered a foreigner. Personally, I feel like I belong everywhere, but that's just not how some people see it.
I don't want my son, or other Chinese-American and Asian-American children to ever grow up feeling like they should be embarrassed of their cultural heritage, and of where their parents or grandparents come from, because all they hear are negative things about it. I also don't want them to feel like they don't belong and that they are less than anyone else. I've dealt with that all my life, and only began to reconcile my identity issues over the last few years. It's really horrible and unfair to do that to children.
So, to my beloved Cloth Diaper Community, I ask that we collectively stop using the term "China Cheapies." Yes, it has nice alliteration, but I'm sure we can come up with a better term. And I want to be clear that I'm not mad at or judging anyone for using this term, I'd just like to ask that we stop using it. You don't know what you don't know, but when you do know, you have to do better. I think that's been the lesson of this whole summer.
Thank you, with all my heart, for taking the time to read this. The cloth diaper community is such a positive and kind community, I'm grateful to be a part of it. If you'd be willing to share this post with other cloth diapering families, I'd greatly appreciate it.