Increased interracial dating serves, for some, as strong, heartwarming evidence for the existence of a post-racial world. With a significant jump in the percentage of newlywed couples in interracial marriages--from 3.2% in 1980 to about 15% in 2010--it's hard to believe that race-based restrictions on marriage were only completely invalidated in 1967.
Others, however, are quick to point out the race and gender imbalances behind interracial dating. My Chinese-American ex-boyfriend once pointed out an Asian woman and a white man locking hands as they left a store together in Times Square. "I'd like that more," he whispered to me as he shook his head, barely hiding his disdain for the young couple, "but you never see it the other way around.  No Asian man is considered attractive enough to be in that kind of relationship."

While I certainly don't think interracial couples deserve to be looked down upon with disdain or bad mojo from curious onlookers, my former lover may have been on to something. According to a Pew report on intermarriage in the United States, "gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely"; in 2010, 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside of their race, compared to just 17% of Asian males. Additionally, 24% of black male newlyweds married outside of their race, compared to a paltry 9% of black females. If interracial love is really an indicator of a post-racial atmosphere, why do such stark gender patterns emerge within interracial marriage? What can we infer about the value placed on Asian men and black women in this country?

While Asian women in this country have been hypersexualized, exoticized, and painted as docile, submissive creatures, Asian men are consistently portrayed by the media as accented, effeminate boys whose value lies in calculators and your occasional, well-choreographed kung-fu scene. Along the same vein, black women are portrayed as aggressive, loud, and masculine. Could these deep-rooted racial stereotypes, coupled with traditional, heteronormative gender expectations of relationships, be partly responsible for the gender imbalances in interracial relationships? Do these depictions quietly affect who we choose to view as sexually appealing?

Cheerios recently released a  commercial starring a black father, white mother, and their young bi-racial daughter as members of your average, honey-roasted-carbs-loving family. I applaud the company for defending their bold depiction of a biracial family after bigoted viewers decided to air their opinions en masse via YouTube and Reddit, but I will also posit that Cheerios' depiction wasn't interracial enough. Until depictions of Asian men and black women in interracial relationships become more commonplace in our media, I refuse to believe that interracial love can be a sign of post-racial bliss.

Lindsey Yoo is a Korean-American social media aficionado interested in racial justice, community engagement, pop culture, and all things Asian-American.  She coordinates social media for The Filthy Freedom Project, where she dishes about culture, religion and sexuality every other week.

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8/28/2013 05:46:03 am

Thanks so much for writing this.

I am all for interracial relationships. A world before Loving v. Virginia would be a terrible one, and in principle, people of all ethnicities should feel free to date or marry one another.

But interracial relationships become problematic when they not only reflect age-old stereotypes about the excessive masculinity or femininity of non-White races, but also when they ultimately serve to further privilege White people at the expense of minority groups. The current IR situation greatly benefits White people because both the men and the women have increased dating pools as they are essentially able to pick and choose their “favourite” minority groups for coupling. In contrast, Blacks and Asians lose out because the women and men, respectively, are cast as inferior to their White counterparts.

It seems very sexist for Asian guys to gripe about having “their women” taken away, and we must certainly be vigilant about sexist notions of women belonging to certain men. But if this were strictly a male power issue, then we wouldn’t see the intense bitterness also present in the Black community among Black WOMEN with regards to Black men who date/marry outside of their race, mainly to White women.

In the end, this is about minority groups being told yet again that we just don’t measure up to the White standard. Only this time, the message is being told to us by the people who know us best and who, presumably, should be most sympathetic to our struggles. It’s one thing for a White person to tell an Asian guy that he’s ugly and weak and inferior to a White man; it’s totally another for an Asian person to tell him the same thing, either through words or actions.

For some of the Asian women who can’t relate to what I’m saying, imagine the following scenario. White women have almost all of the power in society, and for decades upon decades, they’ve portrayed Asian women as fat, ugly, stinky, ill-mannered, and lacking in any charm. They also spread vicious rumours about the cleanliness or appearance of your private parts, which you cannot disprove without getting arrested for gross indecent exposure. As a result, your demographic is considered practically undateable, except for a few outliers.

And what do most Asian men do? Nothing, or even worse, they agree with these White women. Through their behavior, they show it by dating and marrying them at higher rates than any other minority group. Through their words, they show it by either supporting these claims or by telling Asian women that it’s THEIR fault for not being able to disprove these well-established stereotypes.

This is the situation facing many Asian American men today, though things have obviously gotten a lot better recently. So if an Asian guy seems really angry or sexist, try to understand where he’s coming from. Chances are that from an early age, he was bombarded with the message that he was inherently undesirable because he was Asian, and this message was reinforced time and time again by the media and by society, and by both non-Asians AND Asians.
Asian men and Asian women both need to do a lot more to try to understand one another. Asian men can’t ignore or downplay the sexism that Asian women encounter, both in American and Asian American society. Asian men also shouldn’t want to just keep social inequalities in place, only with Asian men on top instead of White men.

But Asian women also should try to empathize with what Asian men go through because their experience is very different from that of Asian women. Asian men still have a lot of male privileges, but in terms of acceptance by White society, Asian women are far ahead of them and they should recognize and critically reflect on this, and not simply accept it without question as a sign that they have “made it”.

The future of Asian men and women should be tied together. Far too many of us have lost sight of that fact.

8/28/2013 03:03:38 pm

sociologist makes the argument that the prominence of white male/asian female pairings is less a marker of progress than THE embodiment of "post-racial" racism


9/3/2013 04:59:29 am

Yes, I have read that book and it's a good one. The most illuminating part is the one where even 2nd gen+ Asian women still suffer from the same stereotypes by White men, except that these women are deluded into thinking that their relationship is one between equals.

It's quite a SMH moment when you get a "proud" Asian American woman who talks about how she's so not like her mother and is a progressive post-colonial feminist, yet puts White men on a pedestal in the very same sentence.

There is rarely, if ever, a good justification for a minority man or woman to say, "I just prefer White partners." EVER.

10/11/2014 05:13:33 pm

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4/27/2019 03:29:23 pm

Love being in an inter-racial relationship!


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