A Different Take On Interracial Relationships: Questioning The Motives Of Our Mates And Ourselves
Many of us live in diverse communities where we interact with a culturally diverse group of people, but because I work in the downtown core in a large, metropolitan city, I understand that for some their racial tolerance has a short expiry date, ending at 5pm on Friday afternoons. Once they get off the commuter train and reach their homes in the suburbs, that tolerance goes out the window. But in this day and age, I'm of the opinion that anyone who has issues with their children dating or marrying across racial lines should have raised them in a forest or under a rock.
There is still a great concern about dating in the Obama age, and it is quite evident by the amount of posts that have shown up on the 'Net. Personally, I've been having a bit of blogger fatigue about reading and writing about interracial relationships, but recently I came across two great blog posts that managed to challenge my opinion on interracial relationships.
Macon D runs Stuff White People Do and invited two guest bloggers to talk about their dating experiences. One of the bloggers, CL, is Asian and involved with a white guy, with whom she has trouble discussing the reactions she gets from strangers who take issue with her relationship. This has caused her to question her motivation for getting involved with a white dude.
The other guest blogger, fromthetropics, describes herself as mixed-cultured. She was previously in a relationship with a white guy:
I hated hearing about the time he lived in Asia. I could sense that he was not fully aware of how white privilege worked in nuanced ways through him and his mates. I could picture the kind of people who would have wanted to befriend him, the kind who see white as "desirable," and how his white mates would have behaved. The instant celebrity status would have gotten to some of their heads. (Some of their stories corroborated my hunches.)
How do I know all this? I have lived in China, where they either treated me as a Westerner or Japanese. The kind who made the most effort to spend time with me saw these foreign characteristics about me as "desirable." A bunch of us foreigners got invited to a birthday party, and once there realized that we, not the birthday girl, were the main attraction. They treated us well, but I felt uncomfortable that we were invited specifically for our privilege.
But my then partner didn't seem aware or bothered by this type of nuanced privilege...
Both guest bloggers raise some very interesting questions. For people of color, what is our motivation for dating "outside" our cultural, or ethno-cultural, community? Are we ingrained with the belief that by dating/marrying a white person, we are overcoming our internalized self-hatred? How do we talk about race and racism with our significant others, and what do we do when they choose not to take our concerns and/or our personal experiences with racism, seriously?
There are 95 comments (and counting) to this post, and most of them are quite substantial ... and full of pain. There are married folks who have come to the realization that they cannot speak to their partners about a racist incident they have experienced without feeling ridiculed or dismissed. There are people who are clearly fetishizing their Asian and black girlfriends and wives and are not even aware of it.
With the recent controversy over Essence putting Reggie Bush, who is in an interracial relationship, on its cover, we know that, while we live in a society where people from different cultures mingle with each other in the workplace, tolerance does not exist within their own personal relationships and the relationships their friends and family members have with others. But there are many women dating interracially, and there are a number of reasons as to why they do.
I've written before about black women who choose to date/marry interracially, and how they are saddled with the fear that the men that they let into their lives might believe that they are going to "act a certain way or do certain things" because of their ethnicity.
According to a recent post on Racialicious, Asian women are also burdened with racial and sexual stereotypes that make dating more difficult:
For me, one of the worst things about Asiaphilia, is that it turns me speechless. It upsets me on such a deep and visceral level, that despite my chattypants nature, when an exasperated non-Asian (usually a white guy) asks me what's so bad about liking Asian girls, I have no words to explain it.
What made me change my mind about how I view posts on interracial dating was the similarities I had with many of the people who wrote in. I have previously wondered if, by dating white dudes, I secretly thought that I was more socially superior to other black women. Or to blacks in general.
I have been in several interracial relationships. The last one was with a man who dated black women to use them as physical and emotional punching bags. He felt that white girls were out of his reach, and while he clearly knew that he had certain ahem, psychological and sexual "issues" (namely, that black women were perfectly okay for him to exercise his demons on), he chose not to seek help for them. I only found out (via other black women who had encountered him, knew that we were dating, but only revealed this information only after I called the police) after it was too late. I haven't dated anyone since then (five years ago) and to this day, knowing that I unwittingly let someone like that into my life still makes me feel sick to my stomach.
The guy before that was Estonian. He was one of those guys who was so wrapped up in his white privilege that he refused to acknowledge that anything was amiss when his friends pointedly refused to acknowledge my existence (wouldn't even look or talk to me) when we were out with them in public. He also refused to acknowledge the motives of his brother and his then-fiancée, who pulled me aside and ordered me to break up with him. I found out –- only after I told him -- that his brother was telling him the same thing.
The one before that, admittedly the love of my life and the hardest one to forget, dumped me for an Asian woman (now his wife) in part because she was "gentle" and would do things for him (like giving him a sponge bath on their first date) and I was "intimidating." While I know in my heart what an awful human being he is, it still hurts.
Yes, I really know how to pick them. I have spent the past five years trying to evaluate my choices and my feelings about the choices that I made and I still do not have an answer. I have received some flack from people I know about my choices, but what bothered me from reading these recent posts what how I felt about myself. Because of what I choose to write about and my other activist contributions, I know I am proud to be who I am ... but why did I let these idiots into my life?
What do you think?
Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture
Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com
Writer: Hellbound: www.hellbound.ca