By Mamie Mooney
I’m a huge fan of interracial dating. I just want to say that before I continue. It is my belief that people are made to love and be loved; and to grow, and be fulfilled in that love, regardless of color. All of the statistics that describe and prove us to be the least desirable of all women, and a society that is more invested in exploiting and humiliating black women – with black men often leading the charge – can be especially disheartening as a black woman. However, it’s empowering to know that despite all the negatives thrown at us, we can choose not to settle for anything less than respect.
While that respect may not come overwhelmingly from the men who look like us, there are certainly other men of all cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities who want nothing more than to treat us like Queens. (Forgive the Hotep reference — but at least I spelled it right.)
Interracial dating can have amazing results; for example, marriages between black women and white men are 44% less likely to end in divorce. That’s a smaller chance than if that same man was married to any woman of any race! Unfortunately, I also know firsthand that the world of interracial dating has its drawbacks, and when you run into those drawbacks it’s important that you know that you need to take care of you and your feelings – no one else’s.
A few years ago I met Tony. He was handsome, sweet, soft-spoken, a bit high-strung; but that was endearing at first. He had this great smile and laugh that made you want to giggle even if you didn’t know the punchline. I was in love and it felt great. He was also Vietnamese, which was just one more thing that made him so damn interesting to me.
Tony and I had been dating for a few months when I asked about his parents; Vietnamese immigrants that had moved to America and got their slice of the American pie. Despite that piece of America that they held onto for dear life, they also clung to the strict upbringing that helped make them so successful and perhaps the worry that makes any parent a parent. Tony was finishing out his degree as an Electrical Engineer and I was delving into my potential as a divorced mother of one and criminal law student. We had the perfect potential – he loved my daughter and she adored him, I absolutely adored him, we had a bright future and planned to get married and have tons and tons of babies. (Ok, not “tons”, but we planned on starting a family shortly after graduating and marriage). Most of all, he loved me and always showered me with attention, understanding and affection. And I was pleasantly surprised at his bedroom game, which is a whole other story. Things were perfect. That is, unless we were talking about his parents.
Tony was 26 (a grown ass man by all accounts) but very much bound by an unwavering loyalty to his parents. Not only was his loyalty bulletproof, but his acceptance of the babying and ideation supplied by his mother and father was equally unbreakable. While I admired the loyalty, I constantly rolled my eyes at the babying. He wasn’t the youngest child in his family, but was the only boy and in many Asian cultures the boy (especially the oldest boy) is very much valued and entrusted with carrying on the family name.
Mamie and Tony
Tony had met my parents, assorted family and even communicated regularly with my dad, mother and incarcerated brother in Texas; which were things I didn’t even do, so he got major points for that. My brothers liked him and thought he was a nice chance of pace for me. Tony being also from an immigrant family made him like the the second coming of Jesus to my parents as far as his suitability and values as a potential husband and father. In all honesty, my parents would have preferred an immigrant suitor for me as opposed to a white American one, but they didn’t run my life as I was an adult and free to choose who I wanted to be with.
Being a second-generation child of an immigrant family (Liberia & India) myself, I totally understood when Tony said that I couldn’t meet his parents until graduation; they didn’t want him to be distracted and thus forbade him from having a girlfriend. I told myself this was ok, and at that point it was. He was set to graduate soon, so we planned to make introductions at graduation.
Graduation day came – and it went. Tony didn’t graduate due to a situation with his senior design group, but he promised that he would talk to his parents about us. At this point we had been together for a little over a year and time went on. Tony making promises, stringing me along; and me – stupid me – just taking it.
The issues with his parents became progressively worse. The more I pushed for him to become more independent of them, set boundaries with them – and detach himself from his moms vagina – the more he became frantic about wanting to keep both me and his parents happy. Neither of those options included his happiness. And why would they? He was so indoctrinated with the collective nature of his culture that he didn’t comprehend that you absolutely cannot make everybody happy. And when it comes to you, your relationship with the woman you love, and the marriage and children you plan to have with her, making your parents happy shouldn’t matter. Should it?
I found myself being increasingly disrespected. Being hushed when his phone rang and it was his mom; having to keep extra quiet so that she didn’t know that he was with me rather than studying in the college library. The lies I heard him tell about where he was and the silencing made me feel as if I was the other woman – like he was cheating on his mother with me! I was pushed over the edge when I drove down to his house to spend the weekend with him and his parents showed up to bring him food (because his mom cooked his meals every week and either personally delivered them or had his cousins drop them off). He heard a car drive up, looked out the window, saw that it was his parents, said, “Be quiet,” and rushed out of the room … but not before turning off the light in the room I was in. I was appalled. I was hurt. I felt like a dog, like a piece of furniture. So there I sat in complete shock, in the damn dark like a punk, while he briefly visited with his parents and shooed them away. He came back to the room I was sitting in and acted as if nothing happened. I told him that what he did was the single most disrespectful thing I’ve ever experienced and that I was leaving.
After that our relationship was a series of ultimatums – me breaking up with him, and him vowing to set boundaries for his parents. He progressed a bit and then regressed. I sort of met his parents; he told them he was tutoring me (when he choked trying telling them that we had in fact been dating for 2 and a half years at this point), which was ridiculous. I finally told him that I was so tired of it all. I was better without him. That weekend he told his parent about us. I even decided since this was a huge step that he actually made this time that I would send his parents an edible arrangement (because all my Asian friends said food is always a big hit with Asian parents) with a letter introducing myself, and offering to take them to dinner. Well, they got the edible arrangement, let it rot and then threw it away. But not before telling Tony to let “his friend” know not to send them such expensive gifts. That wasn’t even the worst part. His mother told him that she would in fact kill herself if he brought me home; that I was ugly, black, too dark, and only wanting to get pregnant so that I could take all of his money. His parents said that dating a white woman was different and that he could do that but not a black woman.
After that our relationship was never really the same. He wasn’t ready to detach from his parents. It was too much pressure, and I didn’t want someone to have to learn to accept or like me. Most of all I wanted a man who was going to fight for me, a man who decided that his love for me and happiness was worth more than the opinion of his over bearing mother. We broke up shorty after that for good.
I’ve learned some very important lessons from that relationship, lessons that have taught me where to draw the line and what my limits are within a relationship. I am by no means a relationship expert as a result. None of us are. I can tell you that in terms of dating Asian men it’s not always all Taeyang, Kawaii, and anime. The reality of dating Asian men is that the less Americanized they and their families are, the less likely you are to be accepted. The less likely their “love” for you will stand up against the pressure of familial expectations. Now, I know women will pop out of the woodwork talking about how their relationship worked out or their friend’s-mother’s-brother’s-cousins married an Asian guy and they rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after. I’m not saying that happy endings don’t happen. I am saying that they are few and far between. And the AM/BW marriage statistics support that no matter what your personal opinion is or what success stories you have collected.
I’ve been a spectator to the AM/BW movement on social media and while I’m always so happy for the success stories, every other week I’m hearing about how someone else has been wronged or raped or had some Asian guy pull out the stereotypical “Ray Ray from round the way” Maury Show special by getting naive and insecure black women pregnant and denying paternity after promising her the world.
More and more black women are becoming disillusioned about AM/BW relationships. Facebook is awash with AM/BW groups and the same things are always present; men who rely on stereotypes of black women, who don’t respect us as women, who use us to reaffirm their status as men (because black women aren’t the only people with stereotypes that affect the way in which they relate to the world – Asian men have them as well and because of the stereotype that they are weak and/or effeminate, what better way to posture themselves as men than to bed a black woman and tame the stereotypically untamable. Twice the points if you get her pregnant and deny the child or raid her bank account). There are also men who see us as nothing more than a warm place to rest their penises until their Asian or white wife is found. All of which which is incredibly disturbing and frankly dehumanizing. My advice to you is to keep your eyes open and know what you are willing to put up with. Know that you are worth more than being a black little secret somewhere and that relationships – not just interracial ones – are about mutual respect and taking out what you put in. If ever you feel like you are investing more than your partner is willing to give back, it’s time to move on.
Point blank: if a man cares about or loves you, he will not only respect you, your body, and your honor, but he will want to show you off to EVERYBODY. And I mean every. damn. body. Even the mailman. He will also defend you and stand up for you when, or if, someone – including family – has something to say about you that is unbecoming of who you are. He will do this in order to make you feel safe, protected, and because he believes that, despite the fact that you fart in your sleep, or wake up looking like a troll doll and snore like a freight train, you are the most perfect woman alive and when he is around, people BETTER respect you. Anything else, is just you being a placeholder.