Interracial Relationship Study Case of Asian women and White men: Does the good outweigh the bad?
Page |1Rut SetioNastitiEN 112Dr. Geisweidt4/12/2012 Interracial Relationship Study Case of Asian women and White men: Does the good outweigh the bad? Research has shown a number of couples who are involved in interracial relationshipshaveincreased. This might indicate that society is more open to differences, than it was for thepast three decades. The level of interracial relationship varies; interracial marriage is thestrongest form and other such as, interracial dating which can be more casual. The two kinds ofform however are still considered as minority relationships. It is not only because people areafraid of public opinion or stigmas, but interracial relationship is not motivated or promoted.Taking into account, in some Asian countries, interracial relationshipsare not often encouragedby most Asian parents, especially for women. They would be happier if their daughters marrywithin their race who shares the same norms, cultures, and or traditions. It is not because Asianparents are not open-minded; some of them are moderate in other aspect such as education,since statistic shows more of Asian women earned higher degree. Asian parents perceivepeople from different racial background who are often considered as “Westerner” or “WesternPeople” as having a different set of values about families, marriage, even the most fundamentalprinciple such as faith. These cultural differences could be challenging for the couples sinceinterracial relationship between Asian women and White men is still partially beingstigmatized; howeverinterracial relationship could potentially bring betterment for couples,children of interracial couples and the society.
Page |2 Asians are well-known for their long-preserved traditions, family values, obedience,and other cultural sensibilities. Some of the cultures are really unique in Asian families and toother people from other races. For example the most distinguished one among the Asians isyounger people are obligated to refer to older people as aunty and uncle not by first names andyounger family members are encouraged to serve tea to or cherish the older family members.According to an article by Rachel L. Swarns in the New York Times, “interracial marriagesrates are at an all-time high in the United States. (1)” Nevertheless, Asian-Americans arerearing that trend; increasingly they choose to date or marry among their community. Chau Le,33, a Vietnamese-American Boston lawyer who received her degree at Oxford University saidher parents had “given up a hope” that she would marry a Vietnamese man,She said her datingstatistic never indicated that she would end up marrying an Asian man. However, somewherealong the way Le thought that she needed someone who is “slightly more attuned to hercultural sensibilities”(3). Swarns saysmost of the Asians know instinctively that he or sheshould not kiss his or her significant other in front of their parents. This applies to many of theAsians from different national backgrounds. For example even though Le‟s fiancé, NeilVaishnav, 31, is Indian-American, he knows that he should not kiss Le in front of her parents.This norm is also observed in India and some other Asian countries. Cultural sensibilities are even bigger concerns for the parents thanfor the children, sincesome of the parents have not really been exposed to a diverse environment, they tend to bearound their comfort zone, or they choose to stay true to what they believe as the norm.Cultural sensibility becomes a concern for them because among some Asian or Asian-American families, parents might live with their children someday. Asian families have a deepfamily tradition, norms, and values that emphasize the importance of older people or parentswhich can be found as strange for other cultures such as American or European. Another reason why interracial marriage is not popular or favored among Asian parentsor families historically has a strong relationship with the period of colonization by European
Page |3countries or United States to South East or East Asian countries; which is the concept oforientalism. The concept of orientalism was really popular because historically it was commonthat the soldiers of colonizer countries used Asian women to fulfill their sexual desire.Additionally, most people stigmatize Asian woman who married White man as a mean to raiseher socioeconomic status. Therefore, Asian parents see interracial relationship as degradationfor the Asian women‟s dignity. Edward Said author ofOrientalismin his book claims that the relationship between theWest and the East is “a relationshipof power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complexhegemony” (57). Said defines orientalism as “the generic term that [he has] been employing todescribe the Westernapproach to the Orient; Orientalism is the discipline by which the Orientwas (and is)approached systematically, as a topic of learning, discovery, and practice” (73).This is systematical notion has been perceived by many Asian parents and therefore this is theway they think about the West. Dr. Bitna Kim, a professor of criminology in Indiana University of Pennsylvania whoexamined Orientalism said, “Orientalism is not from the Orient, but from the Occident. It isnot for Orient, but forOccident to define Occident and to situate the West as a superior cultureto the East.” Said states in his book that “orientalism is not a European fantasy about theOrient, but atheory created by Europeans for centuries for their own political, economic,religious, andimperial interests and goods” (43). This explanation is supported by Said‟s theorythat “the Orient was transubstantiated from resistant hostility into obliging, and submissive,partnership” (92). Literally this conception can be interpreted as a failure of the Westernpeople to see the authentic characteristics of the Eastern (Asians). The West characterized for granted and indoctrinated to the Eastern that they aresuperior. This also implies a false self-valued that the Eastern is inferior than the Western andvice versa. This false conception is the attitude that most of the Asian parents (who might haveexperienced the beginning of post-World War II) take to prevent their children‟s as being
Page |4dishonored, especially if the family comes from a respectable educational or socioeconomicbackground. However, both Said and Kim agree that orientalism is a collective falseassumption based on the colonial mentality of the West. Said said “these false andromanticized images of the East had served as an implicit justification forthe West‟s colonialand imperial ambitions. Therefore, orientalism is distorted knowledge.”(80). However, innowadays life, orientalism is not a common concept that is usually used to describe arelationship between an Asian women and a western man. The concept of orientalism has somewhat transformed or become more popular asfetishism in the 20thcentury. According to Martin P. Kafka‟s DSMIII-R (Diagnostic andStatistical Manual of Mental Disorders) fetishism is “typically operationallydescribed as persistent preferential sexual arousal in associationwith non-living objects, anover-inclusive focus on (typicallynon-sexual) body parts (e.g., feet, hands) and bodysecretions” (1).In an article written by Rachel L. Swarns for the New York Times who featureda Taiwanese-American woman, Ann Liu, 33, who lives in San Francisco and who always datedwhite guys, but now is married to a Filipino-American engineersaid she had developedincreasingly uncomfortable with dating white men who dated only Asian-Americanwomen.Liusaid , “It‟s like they have an Asian fetish. I felt I was more like this „concept‟. Theycould not really understand me as a person completely. (4)” According to research done by Dr. Bitna Kim who conducted five email and five face-to-face interviews with Caucasian men who dated, are dating, are seeking to date, or married toAsian women gave answers that hintedthat based on their experiences, Asian women areacquiescent. Apart from the negative stereotypes, some of them mentioned that manyAsianwomenheld positive stereotypes;“intelligent, educated, successful, family-oriented, andbeautiful” (7). Kim argues that the answers that were given are examples of generalization thatcomes from not only limited experiences, but also limitedlevel of education. One of thecorrespondents said that“people whouse the term Asian fetish are trying to dissuade Asian
Page |5women from dating non-Asianmen; there are a lot of Asian men who are controlling,jealous,and insecure from which this Asian fetish notion can be attributed to” (6). This assumption is relevant witharesearch done by a group of graduate students fromColumbia University, University of Chicago, and Stanford Universitywhich discovered that“for male partners [the] finding is that Asians [males] generally receive lower ratings than menof other races.When the regressions [was run] separately for each race, [it was found]that evenAsian womenfind white, black, and Hispanic men to be more attractive than Asian men. Giventhat Asian menwere the group that other races expressed strongest preference against, and thatAsian women expressedthe least preference against other races” (8). However, critiques isfound toward the research since, it does not reflect the whole trend in the USA, since morethan half of the participants (63%) are White, and the rest were divided between Asian,Hispanic and Black. Nevertheless, it can be interpreted that Asian men have less chances todate women outside their race. The misconception and generalization are two of many reasons why interracialrelationships are still a minority.Another reason is the challenges that might arise frominterracial relationshipare rather more complicated than people who date within their race. LeeS. Shulman and W. AndrewCollins who are notable educational psychologists from StanfordUniversity claim that“families and friends appear as the most salient groups that influenceindividuals when choosing a romantic partner. (125)” This might be even true for most Asianwomen since the relationship between them and their family members is so strong andintimate. Datzman and Gardernerreport similar findings from 19 in-depth qualitativeinterviews which show “families may mirror the rejection received by the larger society andimpose restrictions if their members disagree with the relationship” (16). This is the firstchallenge for Asian women when they start a new relationship out of their race; to getacceptance from the family members. However, this acceptance varies between families andtheir environment.
Page |6 As the status of the interracial relationship gets more robust, the challenge that has tobe overcome gets more complicated.The difficulty that might arise from the outcome ofinterracial marriage, which is the strongest form of a relationship, is the identification ofinterracial couple„schildren‟s race. This sometimes can lead to confusion. In many cases, raceswere considered to be mutually exclusive; therefore children of intermarried couples had tochoose one race over the other.Mary C. Waterssays“whites of various European ethnicbackgrounds usually have weak ethnicattachment and have options to identify their ethnicidentity” (318). However, Saenz argues that “racial identification of children with one Asianparent is not random and depends on parents‟ socioeconomic status and [the] demographiccharacteristics” (179). Therefore, when white of various European ethnic an Asian, there aremany factors that can determine the children‟s ethnic identity. Saenz argues that“Asian-American and white couples are more likely to identify theirchildren as ethnic Asian if the father is an Asian-American than if the mother is an Asian-American” (186). It can be derived that fathers play an important role in deciding the race oftheir children. However, it has been suggested byDr. Hart NelsonProfessor of Sociology inPennsylvania State University that mothers are the most important in transferring or handingdown culture since they generally spend a more significant amount of time with the childrencompared to the fathers (126). However, both parents play the most crucial role in thetransmission of culture and the development of the ethnic identification of children (Waters,318). Therefore the identification of children‟s ethnicity can be determined depending on theparenting styles of the family. Even though parents play an important role to determine the racial identification oftheir children;the children also have the option to determine their ethnicity. According toSalgado de Synder et al “one of the factors that is most closely associated with ethnic identityis the degree to which the child is exposed to the culture of the minority parent”(280). He alsoclaims that language maintenance is crucial in the development of ethnic identity. To support
Page |7Salgado‟s view on this, Saenz finds that “children who speak a language other than English athome tend to be significantly less likely to have an Anglo ethnic identity compared to thosewho speak English at home”(186). Additionally Saenz claims“children of [interracialcouples]who live with ethnic members with many fellow ethnics tend to find supportivemechanism, such as ethnic networks and institution [that] allow them to readily maintain theirethnicity” (180). The environment also plays an important role for children of interracialcouples to preserve their ethnic identity. A good maintenance in language of mixed-race children would bring benefits to thechildren. “Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect onyour brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding againstdementia in old age” (1) said YudhitBhattacharjee in his article for the New York Times. Thisis not just a practical skill that is needed in a globalized world.Bhattacharjee said “Manyresearchers, educators, and policy makers long considered a second language to be aninterference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child‟s academic and intellectualdevelopment” (1). Bhattacharjee who has written stories on different topics related to research and policyin neuroscience, claims being bilingual improve the brain‟s executive function. The purpose ofexecutive function is todirect the attention processes for planning, solving problems, andperforming mentally demanding tasks (Bhattacharjee, 2). Especially in the case of Asianwomen and White men, since each country in Asia and Europe has its own distinguishedlanguage (taking into account English is native to people in the United Kingdom and UnitedStates). If the children of interracial couple would be raised in bilingual environment, they willhave these advantages over monolingual children. These advantages include “ignoringdistractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another, andholding information in mind” (Bhattacharjee, 2).
Page |8 Even though environmentally there are a number of challenges that arise from beinginterracial children, biologically interracial children could potentially have the “hybrid vigor”genes. According to an article in Channel 4 Race and Science, “animals and plants born togenetically dissimilar parents often exhibit „hybrid vigor‟. [therefore they will be] havinghigher growth rates and greater resistance to disease” (2). Hence, some scientists think it ispossible that mixed race children gain a noticeable genetic advantage and show a degree ofhybrid vigor. The article compares inbreeding and outbreeding in animals and plants. Inbreeding,where the parents are closely related, tends to produce very unfit offspring. In contrast,outbreeding, or being unrelated, can lead to hybrid vigor. In addition, “marryingan extremelyunrelated partner should be good for the same reason; the number of genes in [interracialcouple‟s] children that are identical by descent is reduced, and with it the chance that a genehas two broken copies” (Channel 4 Race and Science,3). This means it is possible that theoutcome of offspring creates a unique feature, for example black hair with blue eyes orbrunette hair with darker skin. The article has somehow suggests a hidden message to deliverthe false assumption that it is biologically hazardous or harmful to out marry different race,since race is not something genetic but social. Regardless of the social boundaries or challenges for the interracial couples, interracialmarriage can be seen from its socioeconomic perspectives. A combination of anAsian andWhite spouse hasthe highest combined median income. The common trend elicits thatnewlyweds who are interracial have better income than single-race newlyweds, when it iscombined (with Asian-Asian as exception in the third highest). Asian groom and White bridemake the most income, while White groom and Asian bride are in the second place with only $848 difference (Pew Research, 6). The false assumption or prejudice that has been put towardsAsian women who married White men for the sake of raising their economic status is notadequate and is an example of stereotypes in the society.The result can also be interpreted that
Page |9interracial marriage could potentially bring a better financial situation for their family, whichin the long term will be beneficial for their children. Pew Research Center also finds out that “when it comes to education, white newlywedswho married Asians are more educated than whites, blacks, or Hispanic (…) Also, about six-in-ten Asian newlyweds who married white are college educated” (6). Therefore, when anAsian woman chooses to marry a White man,it should not be seen as a degradation of Asianwomen‟s values; since most of them are educated and financially proficient. Along with it,White man who chooses to marry Asian women should not be considered as having fetish,especially in a country with a high diversity such as United States. From the research, a patternis also seen that newlyweds who out-marry from other races, such as Hispanics and Blacks, arealso more likely to be more college-educated than those who married within their group.Therefore it can be understood that people who out-marry are likely to be more open-minded,unprejudiced or more tolerant, since the interracial marriage will cause a lot of barriers for thecouplesto overcome insociety. Interracial couples show willingness to learn new cultures, tounderstand differences, and to overcome the challenges. Saenz et al state “assimilation does not necessarily indicate the loss of their minorityidentities. In contrast, their racial awareness may heighten because of their direct contact andcompetition with mainstream society,” (176). A heighten in racial awareness could also createa unique race for example Amerasian or Eurasian which makes children of interracial couplefeel less excluded. Interracial marriage can potentially change the historical characteristic ofthe mutual-exclusiveness of race. Therefore children of interracial couples can normallyidentify themselves asmulti-racial with more acceptancesand less stigma from the society.Saenz et al argues when minorities marry [W]hites, they become assimilated into the majorityof American economic, political, and family life (191). Saenz claims“intermarriage has traditionally represented one of the most accurateindicators of assimilation” (176). He also argues that “for the minority-group individuals, the
P a g e | 10choice of a spouse from the majority group suggest that structural and interpersonal barrierinhibiting interaction between minority and majority groups have been reduced significantly.”These two perspectives are supported by the Pew Research Center‟s survey that showsintermarriage has become more common. Only 11% Americans say interracial marriagesworsen the society, however 43% Americans say that more people of different races marryingeach other has been a change for a better in society (7). Forty-four percent Americans thinkthere is no difference in any kind of marriage. The three different perspectives show that publicattitude has become more tolerant towards interracial relationships. Interracial relationships should not be defamed by the society. Biologically, it has beendemonstrated that assimilation of two different races brings no harm for the society. However,the way how society sees assimilation is usually the reason for the problems that arise for thecouples and their children. Stereotypes should also be put aside about interracial relationships,especially in this case between Asian women and White men. When interracial relationshipsare seen thoroughly, there are many potential enhancementsthat could potentially yield a betterquality of life.
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