I hope this message finds you well. My name is Tim and I recently saw a Youtube video you had posted wherein you interviewed Asian men and Black American women in NYC about their thoughts regarding interracial dating and marriage. From there I found your other video to which I am responding.
First, I would just like to commend you for the outstanding work you have done and thank you for navigating these issues of race in the way that you do. It is never easy to tackle since everyone’s feelings and opinions regarding their own background as well as the backgrounds of others oftentimes vary greatly; however, your honest engagement and down-to-earth personality make all the difference.
Before I get to the heart of my response, perhaps I should preface it with a little information about myself. I am a 32 year old Korean American man who was adopted from South Korea when I was nine months old. My dad is of mixed European ancestry and self-identifies as White, and my mom is half Puerto Rican and half Italian and identifies as multi-racial (however, she acknowledges that she can oftentimes pass for White and as such does benefit from White privilege). I grew up in a predominantly White area and was one of the only Asian American students for the entirety of my grammar and high school career. During and after college, I have maintained a diverse group of friends and have had the good fortune to travel to various places in Asia including a two year stint in Korea and Taiwan, as well as less extensive periods in Hong Kong, Japan, and mainland China. Moreover, I have dated both intra- and inter-racially (with Black women among others) and was most recently in a 3 year relationship with a Black American woman (who self-identified as such).
While my lack of Asian family ties/parentage may make me seem like a less-than-ideal candidate to respond to your initial question, I think that it is for that very reason that my insight may prove to be of value. In short, the main thing that I wanted to say is that there is no reason for Black women to hesitate dating Asian men any more than they would anyone else. While I can see some potential obstacles which could prove to be problematic such as issues of colorism, the desire to maintain cultural traditions by dating within one’s own ethnic group, etc., if we interrogate the underlying reasons for their existence, it becomes increasingly evident that none are necessarily specific to the Asian American community and should therefore in no way discourage Black American women from considering Asian men as potential partners.
In her work, “Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA” sociologist, Nadia Kim, explores the real or imagined racial tension between Korean and Black Americans in L.A. Rather than abide by the commonly held belief that conflict may stem from actual differences in culture (between members of the respective groups), she instead illustrates how some Koreans are actually influenced by the US mass media to view Black Americans negatively prior to their arrival in this country. I use this example not because I am trying to argue that Koreans or other Asians are in no way prejudiced all by themselves and that those biased ways of seeing things may impede an otherwise decent romantic relationship; rather, I am merely trying to illustrate a degree of complexity to this issue which I feel is oftentimes overlooked. Although it can seem tempting to write Asian men off because they or their families may have racist notions about Black Americans, when we broaden our purview we see that the issue stretches far beyond that of the Asian (American) community. It is a problem of mass media representation, global cultural and information flows, and a lack of autonomy for people of color (including Asians) to choose how they are portrayed and for and by whom.
The other major concern which I sometimes hear for why Black American and other women may hesitate to consider Asian men as potential partners is that they fear that Asian men are bound by culture, particularly in the form of filial piety. While this may be true for some, I would argue that in general men, regardless of their ethnic or racial background, are given far more freedom to choose their partner than women of the same group. This can be seen throughout history and across cultures as men were encouraged to not only control the sexual rights of women of their own group, but also to garner the rights of those of neighboring groups as well (in true imperialistic fashion). There are of course exceptions I am sure but I would argue that no matter what, men have never been held to the same standard as women in regards to maintaining cultural/racial “purity” and may as a result have more power to decide whom they date and/or marry than a non-Asian dater may initially think. What is more, even if this concern were entirely true, its degree of significance would largely depend on how long the family in question had resided in the United States. Chances are if an Asian man is fourth, third, or even second generation, this issue may not prove prohibitive in the least. This, much like the previous example, is not then specific to Asian men but rather an issue which could stem from being an immigrant from another country/having parents who are immigrants. Either scenario could result in having to deal with the pressure to assimilate into mainstream American society (which is always synonymous with White in the US) or adhere to the cultural traditions of one’s sending country. (Thus, I am skeptical that this problem would not be potentially encountered by Black American women dating Greek, Italian, or even Nigerian men whose parents were urging them to do one or both of the above.)
Finally, there is the concern that Asian men may only be interested in Asian women/may not be attracted to Black women. Before getting into this, I will first state that I am in no way concerned with the Black women or Asian men who genuinely do not find each other sexually attractive for whatever reason. In other words, I’m not trying to take on the job of convincing Black women to give Asian men a chance who would not want to already (or vice versa). No sense in beating a dead horse, right? (At the same time I do always find it peculiar when I hear people say that they “just don’t find ‘group x’ attractive.” Can’t help but think it is more complex than that but hey…that’s just me.) I think that the reason for this potential concern stems mainly from the ways in ways in which I feel we are largely represented within American media and (pop) culture. While it may seem as though White and Black Americans are positioned on antithetical ends of an idyllic racial spectrum, I would argue that in actuality it is Asians who are presented as the polar opposites of their Black counterparts (in many respects with Asians as hypo and Black Americans as hyper ). For instance, as a whole Asians are seen as small, quiet, and unassertive (which in a Western context are coded as feminine), whereas Black people are presented as big, loud, and physically dominant/imposing (which in turn are coded as masculine). Thus while one could potentially make a case for a relationship between a Black man and an Asian woman (the ostensibly most masculine with the ostensibly most feminine), a potential relationship between an Asian man and Black woman may seem laughable if not inconceivable. However, upon further interrogation we see how such an assessment is not just problematic, but entirely fallacious.
When these stereotypical archetypes are looked at more closely, it becomes easier to observe the inherent contradictions within them and to disqualify them as a result. For example, while Asian men are usually depicted as feminine due to their lack of height, penis size, or assertiveness, they are also stereotyped as capable of taking over the world (i.e. “Yellow peril” stereotype) and being very patriarchal, hardworking, and career-oriented, (all of which again in the Western context are coded as masculine). Conversely, Black men are represented as being big, strong and well-endowed but also as lazy, and incapable of providing for the family. On the other hand, the Asian woman who is depicted as feminine due to her small frame and unassuming demeanor is at the same time presented as cunning, shrewd and domineering (as seen in the “tiger mom” stereotype for instance) and in this way may be considered masculine. Black women, while portrayed as masculine for being tall, loud, and aggressive at the same time are depicted as super matriarchs, caring for the house and family even when faced with seemingly impossible odds. Thus, when we try to reconcile the obvious contradictions observed between not just the stereotypes associated with both groups but more importantly the MEANINGS ascribed to those stereotypes, it becomes clear that they are more or less illusory.
Even if we entertain the common riposte “well, stereotypes DO exist for a reason,” and do an honest study of where these stereotypes came from and more importantly why they persist, it becomes clear that their conception had far more to do with specific social and political agendas than anything else. Assuming that even half of the stereotypes I invoked earlier were true, I contend that the far more salient point would be that nothing of value would be gained for members of either group in comparison to the benefit gained by members of the White mainstream. If we consider the stereotypes (which in my opinion are not just contradictory within groups but also across them), one cannot help but notice that Whites are positioned conveniently in the middle and as such are upheld as the norm. Thus, the femininity and masculinity connoted by these portrayals and any potential benefit that one may hope to glean from their perpetuation are nonetheless a perversion of the same qualities observed within the White mainstream. For instance, only White heterosexual men can take care of their families, be physically capable (but not in an animalistic/violent way) and be sexually skilled (having just the right size penis). Only a White woman can be in control of her own sexuality (unlike Asian women who are sexually submissive or repressed or Black woman who are sexually promiscuous/primal) and at the same time maintain a career and the domestic sphere.
I apologize for veering off-course a bit, but I feel these issues are necessary when trying to qualify my response to your initial question. No matter what, we are nonetheless socialized to acknowledge many of these stereotypes while growing up and in our everyday lives. What is more, we may even internalize them as inherent truths not just for ourselves but also for those of other groups as well. Thus, Black American women may feel that Asian men are not sufficiently masculine for them or perhaps that they might be viewed as insufficiently feminine when compared to their Asian counterparts. In regards to this potential pitfall, I can only say that Black women will never know until they try (and vice versa for Asian men of course). This brings me to my final and most important point which is that Black women should not rule out Asian men any more than they would any other kind of guy. There is far too much heterogeneity within each group (both Asian and Black) to exclude any of them out from one’s potential dating pool. For instance, I am a Korean adoptee who grew up in upstate NY. One might think that I was raised as a White person or that I may have White sensibilities due to my parents; however, it was because of this as well as myriad other life experiences that I developed a keen awareness of race as a marker of difference and how that could affect one’s social standing and self-perception. Furthermore, my views and opinions will not only likely contrast with those of other Asian ethnic groups but also with other Korean adoptees from upstate NY haha. (It would be pretty arrogant of me to assume otherwise I feel.) Also, there is a lot of diversity among Black Americans as well, depending on what generation they are and whether they self-identify as Black/African American, Afro-Latino, West Indian, or with a particular African ethnic group instead. I think that we as individuals owe it to ourselves to keep our minds open, to try to understand the root of our own ignorance, and see the humanity in all whom we make contact. (At the same time, I do see the value in having pride in yourself and trying to better understand the specificity of your partner’s identity/experience as well.)
In summation, the best advice I would give to Black women who are considering whether to explore dating Asian men would be the same advice I would give anyone who is thinking of dating in general. It is far more important to know yourself as an individual (e.g. what your beliefs and convictions are, what kind of lifestyle you enjoy and are looking to maintain/strive for, religious/spiritual/political views, and the like). The better you know yourself and what you are about, the better you will be able to identify those things in your partner and decide whether they are someone you’d like to pursue something with, regardless of their racial background. In regards to a practical tip, I’m all about the direct approach. It’s the 21st century after all :).
I apologize for the long-winded message and if it sounded in any way condescending or preachy (definitely not my intention, I think it’s just how I write). If you have any questions, comments, disagreements, or would like me to clarify anything, please feel free to contact me. Thank you again for all of your work. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors!