“It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” –Audre Lorde from “Eye-to-Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger”
For a while now, I have been thinking about Asian/American women, love, and interracial dating. How talking about love and putting judgments on who someone loves (and how and why) is challenging. In college, I would participate in discussions about Black couples, love, and interracial relationships. The conversations were intense, emotional, and would eventually return to the point about how difficult it is to assign judgment or value on love. As much as we can be critical about the context in which love develops, how could we judge emotions and attraction? This same discussion gets raised in Oakland (or really the world) too about Asian/American women, and particularly we are commenting on the number of Asian women dating white men.*
I’m going to admit I’m bothered by the great number of these couplings too. What are the power dynamics? What does this mean about Asian/American assimilation? As someone who questions our socialization—specifically our internalized racism and colonialism—I’ve prioritized dating men of color. And I know people who try to prioritize dating within their race. This might seem restrictive, but if we are to challenge the self-hatred that has been fed to us, I believe we can give our people a second chance. In the extra date, second glance, or self-reflection, we may see that our lover’s flat-nose is more beautiful than we were taught by white media. We may see our difficulties communicating as weaknesses we are only growing stronger by addressing through practice. We may realize how healing this opportunity is to love one another.
But sometimes that doesn’t work. Sometimes, we fall in love with someone who is white. Maybe this person has grown up around a variety of healthy relationships and don’t have years of trauma to work through. Maybe they are able to be present and ready in ways that previous lovers and partners have not. So maybe an Asian/American woman ends up dating a white man. (I recognize that this pattern may exist in queer relationships too, but I have not observed such a great number as with heterosexual couplings. Am I wrong? Is this essay needlessly heterosexist? Please correct me if I’m in the wrong.)
In the case that you are walking down Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, or some other middle-class strip of shops (I believe this phenomenon is completely impacted by socio-economic class), and start to make some comment about that Asian and white couple, I have two things to say to you.
1) You don’t get to assume anything! Maybe—just maybe—this chica is the most down, self-loving, politicized and racially aware person. Her partner or date may even be a radical anti-racist activist. You don’t know. Even if she wasn’t and he wasn’t, you don’t know what that relationship has given these two. Maybe with this partner, she does not have to relive the trauma of being with someone who is not present or abusive. Maybe with her, he is challenged in new ways. Maybe this is a love that is good for the world and healing for these two.
When I hear men of color in particular judge these couplings, I wonder if their words perpetuate patriarchy in the name of anti-racism. There is a distrust of Asian/American women. Is there even a glint of self-hatred in my own distaste for seeing Asian/American women with white men?
2) If you don’t like these racial dynamics, are you doing the hard work to change it? And no, I don’t mean the work of writing another patriarchal, racist, woman-policing blog post. I don’t mean holding a discussion about interracial dating. I mean the gritty, painful emotional work that men/ men of color avoid. Asian men and other men of color have work to do to prepare them for what Audre Lorde calls a “rigorous loving.” It takes re-conditioning to be in touch with our anger, our sadness, and our joy so that it does not strangle our ability to be in relationship.** What are men doing to heal the trauma that makes loving openly and deeply difficult? I write these questions with full awareness and love for the men I have been privileged to know who are doing this work for themselves and thus, for the benefit of generations to come. There are people—and beautiful Asian/American people for that matter—who are overcoming these challenges.
I also write this to hold Asian/American women and the entire Asian/American community accountable. We must do the work it takes to challenge our internalized racism and colonialism. While people have no right to judge us or make assumptions about our relationships, we still owe it to our lovers and partners (and families and communities and ourselves) to un-do the impact of racism. We too owe it to ourselves to dig through the dirt of trauma and commit to the hard emotional work of re-learning how to love ourselves and our community, whether or not we are in relationship with someone who is also Asian/American.
After war, colonialism, years of racism, all around us lay scattered pieces of ourselves we are collecting to learn to love again, wholly. The most crucial point is that we must heal in order to love and we must love in ways that heal. In that, we must develop a critical lens that recognizes how history and politics impact attraction and love, whomever our partners are.
*Remarks made in popular culture includes what Junot Diaz wrote in his short story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” which appears in This is How You Lose Her, “Is it me or does every Asian girl on the planet marry a white guy? Is it written on the genes or something?” And more recently, even a rabbi on The Mindy Show praised a character for being very Jewish… by dating an Asian woman (Mindy).
And then there is bullshit like this that I am not even trying to respond to. This is a wonderful in-depth analysis: http://tympan.blogspot.com/2012/09/i-refuse-to-ever-date-asian-man.html
**I think this essay can apply to people who prefer other dynamics in their relationships, be it friendships over romantic relationships, open relationships, casual sex. These relationships don’t absolve us from the responsibility to act with love and question the contexts that make love between people of color more difficult.