Deconstructing Color-Blind Love
By Alex Lee
A Korean friend asked me recently, ``You’re real popular with Korean girls, aren’t you?” After replying I had a Korean girlfriend, he never talked to me again. Do white guys react in this way after being `attacked’ by Asian men over Asian women? Maybe John Lennon was right: All you need is love? But he could afford to be so aloof. He was white and Yoko wasn’t.
Criticizing interracial relationships between white men and Asian women is the third rail of Asian American identity politics. You don’t do it, especially as an Asian American man. But the issue deserves debate. And, yes, again.
I don’t have a problem with interracial couples. My problem is with willfully ignorant people who embrace myths like ``color-blind love transcends racial inequalities" and ``all Asian men are sexist while white men are not." Of course, any couple can ``fall in love." It's naive, however, to ignore the reality of white privilege.
Historically, negative stereotypes of Asians in the West, countered by positive stereotypes of white people globally, are why most Asians still use white people as yardsticks of success _ particularly in the dating field.
I'm well aware that my attractiveness to native Korean women over native Korean men has a lot to do with my privilege as an American gyopo man. But this advantage doesn't exist outside of Asia like it does for white men. That's the difference.
``Sorry, I don't date Asian guys because they're too sexist or nerdy" is a refrain I've heard a lot from Asian American girls. Too bad, Hollywood has been selling the same stereotype of Asian men forever.
For every Pitt, Clooney, and Damon the world sees in Oceans 11, 12, and 13, Asian men get the same mute Chinese acrobat who fits into boxes. Globally, Western white men are allowed to be everything Asian men are not, sexy and nonsexist. They even speak.
In the U.S., Asian American women married white spouses at nearly twice the rate as Asian American men, according to the 2000 Census. Korean American women had the second highest outmarriage (marriage to whites) rate of all Asian American women (Japanese American women were first) at 24.3 percent of all marriages compared to Korean American men at only 3.9 percent. In Korea, Korean women surveyed by Bien-Aller, a Seoul-based matchmaking company, preferred white spouses over other races at 32.9 percent compared to Korean men at only 14.4 percent.
Numerous studies contend this discrepancy is unique to Asian Americans since in other racial groups men outmarry more than women. (Outmarriage statistics for black women with white men, interestingly, were nearly the same statistical inverse of the Asian female situation. Coincidence? Last time I checked, black women were dissed by the global media almost as much as Asian men--save Beyonce).
So, why the gender gap? A popular explanation is the overt patriarchy in Asian culture, like the sexist preference of sons over daughters to preserve the family name. But equally important is the West's wartime legacy in Asia, like U.S. servicemen, camptown-centered brothels and Asian war brides. Sorry, but a white man's earnest claim that he is ``nice" and not like other perverted white guys addicted to Asian porn isn't enough to erase history.
The West is smug in thinking it’s so liberal. Most interracial couples speak the man’s native language, English. Many ``liberal” white men don’t seek equally ``liberal” Western white woman. And white ``feminists” leave the home but hire non-white women to replace them.
Furthermore, feminist history in Asia is, in fact, strong. In Korea, women were largely in control of their own lives during the Koryo period before Confucianism was introduced. Patrilineage was uncommon, inheritance was equally divided among sons and daughters, and widows were known to remarry. A long time ago, yes. But sexism is clearly not ``inherent" to Asian culture?despite the hype.
Introducing these points usually mean being personally attacked on my masculinity and sense of self-worth, a classic example of how the culture of power places the burden of proof on those with less power. Meanwhile, those with more power have the luxury to brand my arguments as mere ``complaints." This is known as hypocrisy, folks. A parallel example would be me blaming Asian women for being vain and appearance-obsessed without questioning my own complicity in sexism. I can act calm and collected because my self-worth isn't reduced to my waistline.
Ask a white man to switch places with an Asian man and he'll feel the difference in power quick. Not to mention, they'd probably do more than just complain, like legally ban Asians from entering their country for decades, create ``anti-miscegenation" laws that would prohibit interracial marriage, encourage state-wide sterilization programs for non-white women, and kill non-white men for just looking at white women _ all in the name of ``science" and ``pure" white nationhood. Oh wait, they already did.
Meanwhile, tales about marriage between an indigenous woman of color and white men _ think Pocahontas _ have long been staples of European-American culture, says George Lipsitz. The native woman's love for the white man serves to establish the moral superiority of the conqueror's culture. These stories turn the brutality and sadism of conquest into a voluntary romance.
That's why people who argue Asian women are resisting Asian sexism by marrying white men are mistaken. In this context, what defines ``agency" (or the power of the oppressed) is actually overextended. If the women were aware of their oppression outside Asia, then this might be true. However, most Asian women are not, so they just trade Asian sexism for a ``nicer" white, Western sexism and racism.
If white feminists didn't marry Asian men to combat Western sexism, why would the opposite be true?
It's easy to criticize someone like me as defending native Asian men because I'm Asian. But I'm also American, an irony lost on most white Western men who brand me as some sort of Korean nationalist. I have no problem criticizing Asia, like how East Asian men exploit South East Asian women but still use marriages between the two as proof of how ``cultural understanding" they are. Here, the power dynamics are clear. So, what makes white men with Asian women that different?
Ultimately, it's not about arguing who's ``worse" or shallowly emphasizing that we're all sexist and racist. It's about taking the issue less personally, enough to see that there are larger forces at play. I love my parents but still find it important to criticize the ridiculously classist system they came from. Consequently, the current state of interracial relationships doesn't equal ``racial harmony" as much as some people would like to believe.
After all, it's called ``color-blind love" for a reason. It blinds you to the truth.