Am I another Asian woman who dates white men?

I laughed to myself a little bit after I wrote this click-bait of a title. Then I did a quick google search on “Do Asian women prefer dating white men”, and the results were even more hilarious.

If I were to fill out a CV right now based on my relationship experience, it would certainly show that the skin colour of my partners has been through a process of white washing, so to speak. The first relationships of mine were with Chinese boys, and the most recent have been white. In this hyper racially aware world, obviously I’m going to make a mental note of this change myself. That’s why I want to talk about my experiences and my true feelings in this blog post today.

Whenever race is brought up in conversation, people run the risk of being accused racist, or ignorant, or offensive, or all of the above. However, I’m a firm believer that shoving controversial ideas under the rug doesn’t help anything, ever. If you find my true thoughts offensive in any way, well, we don’t need to be friends point it out to me and I’ll improve. After all, anti-oppression is an ongoing process of education and self-improvement.

Race doesn’t matter in love! — Does it?

Yes. The answer to this question is a resounding yes, and anyone who pretends that race doesn’t matter at all in a relationship is being idealistic in the most ignorant way.

I’m not saying that race should matter in a relationship. In an ideal world — ideal in the globalization and equality sense — race wouldn’t matter in any practical matter. But as long as the world is divided into different countries and different cultural groups and different social economic classes, racial differences are going to be noticed in all interpersonal relationships.

We can minimize racialized oppression, but we won’t be able to stop seeing race. There’s just too much historical, cultural, political, and social economic baggage attached to the concept of race, perpetuated by stereotypes, cultural misunderstandings, human stupidity, and hate.

A couple of months ago, I encountered an example of extreme human stupidity. I was walking with a classmate to get some lunch, and he happens to be white and male; what a surprise as I’m studying engineering in England. Walking toward us were two guys who could be called “white trash” by someone who isn’t trying to be very politically correct. They were obviously high or drunk out of their minds. One guy was yelling at the top of his lungs at us: “Good job mate! You gotcha-self a Chinese girlfriend!”

I burst out laughing that very moment while my friend yelled back at them: “She’s not my girlfriend, she’s someone I work with!” To that, the two guys responded with a series of confusion-filled yelling of “Hey, Chinese, Chinese!”

I wasn’t even offended, because they weren’t exactly oppressing me with their sad stupidity. In fact, I am dating a white man, and if it was my partner walking with me, we would probably have been laughing our heads off together.

But don’t be fooled to think that only racist, stupid people comment on the races of people’s partners. Practically ever time I tell someone about the fact that I have a boyfriend, almost the first thing they respond is “Is he Chinese or foreign”? (if the person I’m telling is Chinese), or “What ethnic background is he?” (if the person I’m telling is a Westerner habitually practicing political correctness). To be fair, it’s pretty standard for anyone in a ethnically or culturally diverse area, including myself, to be curious of the ethnic or cultural background of others.

Most of the time the curiosity of others is just that: harmless curiosity. If that curiosity comes from your loved ones, however, you are going to be affected by it.

Fortunately, my family has been very respectful and understanding. They used to ask me “Are you going to marry a non-Chinese person and have mixed babies?” but I know it’s just harmless curiosity about the future, and I completely understand because I have wondered the same thing for the longest time! The good thing is that even if my family may be emotionally invested in the prospective racial dynamics of my future marriage or children, they know that it’s not within their rights to affect my relationships.

Family interference in their children’s marriage has always been a condoned phenomenon in Chinese culture. In my family, there has only been one time that I know of when someone tried to actively interfere with my future marriage, and it was by my grandfather from whom I inherited my family name. One time when my mother was visiting China, he sat her down and told her that he’d like her to “keep an eye on Dandan’s relationships” and try to instill the idea on me that “dating foreigners is okay, but for marriage, a Chinese man is more appropriate.” This idea was quickly shut down, thankfully, by my mother.

Thanks, grandpa, but I can and have formed my own views on who I should marry.

Do I have a preference?

Yes, obviously, everyone has preferences in their partner selection. And my preference is my boyfriend, who is white, but also intelligent, funny, nice, and shares a lot of values and interests with me. So yes, I have a preference, and I prefer the person I’m currently in love with.

Internet public displays of affection notwithstanding, do I have a racial preference in whom I date? Well, maybe. At least, I used to have preferences, or presumptions, or biases towards who I was attracted to.

When I younger, the only concept of “attractive male” I had was from Chinese media and Chinese people around me. Naturally, if you asked me what I liked, I would describe a Chinese person to you.

As soon as I had interactions with people of other backgrounds, though, my attraction to people from any different background was at about the same rate, independent of the other person’s ethnicity, or whether their skin colour was yellow, white, black, or brown! However, it does takes a bit of time after meeting someone who is different to you to feel comfortable enough about them to feel any attraction.

That being said, I definitely have sensed some internalized white supremacist ideas that I’ve inherited. Chinese beauty standards have fluctuated over the various dynasties, but having fair skin has been a consistent trend; in recent decades, Caucasian features have become more popular to the public eye as well.

In addition to a feeling of wonder and cultural shock, I had a period of easy infatuation just about any white male I saw when I first came to university. It was the first time I was surrounded by so many white people, and I was fascinated by too many of the white boys living on my residence floor. Thankfully, after a few months, I came back down to earth, and can now distinguish the actually attractive ones from the actually mediocre ones.

As I’ve gotten older, for some reason I have lost a lot of my interest in most Chinese men that I know. I hope my reasons for this aren’t just racism, but I can’t deny that I have been affected by stereotypes and presumptions.

Chinese men that I know are either former schoolmates from Scarborough, or the few from university, or the many international students in Manchester.

The former are generally still residing in Scarborough or the Toronto area, so I assume that they don’t have the same desires for travel and living abroad as me. From talking to them since high school, I also feel that the Asian immigrant culture that they live in didn’t foster enough progressive thoughts that I received from going away for university.

In university, there were only a handful of Asian students that I knew, and most of them had generally Western cultural identities. By sheer statistics, I was more likely to be attracted to their white counterparts because there were simply more of them.

The international students I’ve met in Manchester are probably a truer representation of Chinese people in China today. I simply no longer have much similarities with them other than the language we speak and our appearances.

Ultimately, compatibility comes from a similarity of ideas. For a long time, I have had the conclusion that I will never find someone who has a similar background to me (Chinese immigrant from preteen ages) and still by luck of the draw be compatible with me in personality. Therefore, I just have to interact with people of all backgrounds with equal respect to find out which person is truly compatible with me. This is what I tell my family when they ask me why I haven’t been dating Chinese people, and knowing this knowledge has been quite liberating.

Judgements and implications of interracial relationships

When I see a couple walking down the street, I can’t help but become curious at how and why they are together. I think this is a common curiosity that people have.

When I see a couple who are both Chinese Canadians, for example, I wonder if they have been outside of their closed community and met the true diversity of Canadians, and why did they stay inside their own circle. Of course, I don’t know how diverse their social groups are, and I’m simply forming a biased judgement.

When I see an interracial couple, I become equally if not more curious. How did they meet one another, and has it been hard for them to be together?

I have these kinds of questions, and I imagine that others would have the same kinds of questions and judgements when they see me walking on the street with a boyfriend, Chinese or otherwise. Maybe many people don’t care or don’t notice, but I’ve surely encountered people who did. It’s not a good feeling, knowing that others are judging me all the time, but I can’t help but do the same, so I just let it go.

Ultimately, it’s a good thing that we live in a free society where one can date and love and marry whomever they want, regardless of race, class, or gender. It’s a good thing — it promotes understanding between people with differences, and society will benefit from the diversified culture.

At the same time, there are still challenges being faced by anyone who is a minority of any kind, or is in a relationship deemed unconventional by others. Interracial or intercultural relationships are no different. Internally, the different life experiences of the two people may cause more challenges to bonding, and externally, there may be judgments.

All we can do is to respect our partner and the way they are different from us, and to respect others and their relationships as well. You can form your own opinions all you want, but please let those opinions be positive.


Originally published at heydandan.com on March 3, 2016.