it’s been a minute since a controversial article about asian americans has circulated the interwebs, hasn’t it? we’ve had a bit of a respite from tiger moms and paper tigers and jeremy lins lately.
so it’s a good thing that this article came out today. jenny an, an asian american woman, wrote in xojane about why she’d never date an asian american man. it’s not because she’s not attracted to them, she says; it’s not because of stereotypically asian values or gender roles, either. no, she writes, it all boils down to the fact that she feels like an outsider and she can’t be accepted into mainstream culture unless she’s with someone who’s white. she writes,
“i date white men because it feels like i’m not ostracizing myself into an asian ghetto and antiquated ideas of asian unity. i still see myself as a minority. and with that, pretty soon comes connotations of ‘outsider.’ and i don’t like that.
“dating white men means acceptance into american culture. white culture.”
i needed a second to compose myself after reading that.
now, i of all people cannot fault any asian american woman for not dating asian american men. i married one of the most aryan-looking people i’ve ever laid eyes on. and even before i met him, i had a sneaking suspicion that i might end up with someone who wasn’t asian american, just because of what my friend group looked like at the time.
but to say that you refuse to date asian american men because you see yourself as a minority and an outsider and you don’t like that feeling, so instead you only date white dudes? what, because their race will somehow erase yours? it doesn’t work like that, hon. clearly you have some issues with your ethnic identity — so wrestle with it. figure out the ways in which our inherently racist society has made you feel so crappy about yourself. get angry at the appropriate targets. get active. but don’t try to run from that part of yourself, because it’s not going anywhere. and don’t cut yourself off from your asian american brothers — it’s not their fault that our society is racist and you’ve internalized those messages.
at the very least, an does acknowledge, on multiple occasions, that she’s racist. (which is no small task.) but instead of working to rectify that, she chooses to leave it as is and to go on living her life racist-ly. i would have little patience for a white person who did the same — who acknowledged their racism and chose not to change. but i have even less patience for a person of color who makes that choice, because they know what it’s like to be on the other end of racism. you write about how racism has hurt you, but when confronted with your own, you shrug and choose to keep being racist? who are you?
an’s ludicrous reasoning is one reason why this article made me so angry. but on a more personal level, it irritated me because someone could read it, look at my marriage, and assume that i married a white guy for the same reasons. that i married interracially because of self-hate, a desire to distance myself from a part of my identity that i don’t like.
there are certainly people — men and women of all ethnicities — who do that. but for the record: i love being asian american. the cultures, the communities, my family, the values, the languages, the food… i love these things, imperfections and all. i’m incredibly proud to be asian american, and i can’t think of a single aspect of my life that hasn’t been influenced by this identity.
i also love my white husband, and i did not marry him because i had my issues with my race and needed a white man to make me feel better about it. if i had done that, i would be fetishizing his whiteness. i would be no better than guys who fetishize asian women, whom an writes about with such disdain.
so, jenny an, i see your internalized racism and your craptastic reasoning. i’m not saying that you have to date asian american men, because obviously you do not. but perhaps, instead of trying so hard to reject your ethnicity and your minority status, you could face these things and deal with them. and perhaps you could work on your racism and strive for a less racist society instead of perpetuating the one we have.