Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dumb And Dumber

Dating White Guy Activism.

It's almost impossible to believe that only half-a-century ago dating and marrying outside of one's race was illegal in many states and could lead to imprisonment, social stigmatization, or even death. It has been a long and hard-earned struggle of individuals and civil rights groups that has slowly brought about legal changes and shifts in social attitudes such that the choice to marry outside one's race is no longer controlled by despotic legislation, although it must be said that social stigmas, though less apparent, still remain. For some demographics, society still maintains reservations about the desirability of miscegenation and thus although it is legal, dating and marrying someone of a different race is still a serious life-choice that is not discussed casually, or taken lightly. With one exception.

A recent article in the Huffington Post, written by Princeton student Vivienne Chen explores the nuanced bigotry involved in the increasingly common practice of Asian women who exclusively date white men. As Chen explains, the practice is a minefield of prejudice and racial stereotyping - which she casually accepts with a flighty shrug and a petulant sigh. Chen's article was written in response to these two articles which also bemoan the pitfalls involved when some Asian women exhibit biased thinking against all men of colour (including and sometimes, particularly Asian men) and choose to exclusively date white men. 
We prefer Western men because we grew up in a culture that prefers Western men......Asian cultures can be remarkably xenophobic, and white people are sometimes given a "light-skinned pass." Long before the White Man set foot in China, having light skin was a sign of wealth and status, as it meant you didn't spend long hours toiling in the sun....But by constantly projecting this idea that men who specifically like Asian women are creepers, we risk making otherwise decent, respectable guys avoid dating Asian girls for fear of being labeled a creeper -- until we have nothing but creepers left.
This is a strange thing to say, and a little bit silly - African-American and Hispanic-American women grow up with the same conditions yet don't appear to exhibit the same bias towards white men. Furthermore, both these groups value lighter skin, but haven't developed the same type of culture which discriminates against men from their own community and shows preference for white men. Even more remarkable about Chen's piece is that it is discussing cultural stereotypes within the context of inter-racial relationships in which the creation of negative stereotypes about men of colour was, and remains, one of the fundamental ways that American culture maintains social stigmas about marrying outside your race. Negative stereotypes about minority men have and continue to serve the purpose of discouraging white women from marrying outside their race. Yet, Chen ignores this social phenomenon and addresses the least damaging of stereotypes - that of white men as "Asiaphiles".

The results of these stereotypes have even more far-reaching effects than simply discouraging inter-racial dating. Stereotypes about Asian timidity embolden anti-Asian racism and have created a culture of casual, nonchalant, throw-away, prejudice that is expressed with little expectation of repercussion. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is the way this stereotype of Asian people may affect America's foreign policy actions in its sometimes delicate relations with Asian countries. Negative stereotypes of black men - violent and hyper-aggressive - drive police brutality and even contribute to the death of innocent black children.

Yet, despite this, Chen's choice is to focus on the "hardship" faced by a small minority of white men who are "unfairly" stereotyped as Asia-philes. And right there in a nutshell illustrates the second most important reason (the first is; I just don't care) for why I don't concern myself with the so-called "IR disparity debate" - in order to hold dialogue on the subject one has to often be able to actually comprehend the thought process of a muddled mind, which means that you have to understand the logic of stupidity. I'm glad to say that, so far, I have been unable to do this.

It takes a unique kind of privilege to be able to be so casual about a subject with as bloody a history as miscegenation, so much so that the author is able to acknowledge her own and other Asian women's biased thinking when it comes to stereotypes and prejudices about minority men (who in passed years bore the brunt of anti-miscegenation violence) yet can wave it away by citing reasons beyond their control - it's not their fault! Of course, it is also speaks volumes that Asian women are routinely given mainstream platforms to wax poetic about their prejudices and biases (most often against their own people and culture) in a way that other minority women are not. You will be hard pressed to find African-American or Hispanic-American women being given the platform in mainstream media outlets to casually express and wave away their prejudices towards men of their own race.

There are a couple reasons for this that I can think of. The first is that it is culturally unacceptable to express prejudice towards Black or Hispanic-Americans - regardless of who is expressing it, and the fact that this phenomenon exists illustrates the degree to which anti-Asian racism is tolerated. The second reason is that the dialogue and narrative of Asian-American inter-racial dating choices is conducted in one of two ways; it is either vulgar and hyper-sexualized by the women writing about it, or it is childlike and juvenile, often exhibiting the thinking and reasoning of a pubescent. Chen's piece is an example of the latter.

In my experience - limited as it might be - black and Hispanic women of college age and beyond, simply don't present or show themselves in their writing to have juvenile mentalities because they have to try so hard (especially black women) to overcome prejudice - childish flightiness won't work for other women of color. Juvenile mentalities in non-Asian women are just not tolerated and those who posses them are certainly not given many opportunities by mainstream America to display it, nor are they taken as seriously as Asian women seem to be. The irony here is that this childishness is an implicit aspect of the so-called "Asiaphile" phenomenon to which such Asiaphiles are attracted and one can only wonder if this also plays a role in the accessibility of some Asian women to the white male dominated media. That's is definitely food for thought.

And here is another reason for Asian men to avoid debating the IR debate - it gives voice and attention to people whose thinking is so simplistic that it allows the propagation of an Asian-American voice that lacks nuance and intelligence - that is the last thing we need. For instance.....
Those of us who come from more traditional Asian families know our parents would faint if we brought home an African American boyfriend; I've seen my friend's mother scream at her for having a Berkeley-educated Brazilian beau.
People change - yes, even traditional Asian people - where's the stories of the traditional family who overcomes their prejudice and finally accepts their black son-in-law? What about those who are traditional but accept their children's decision to date or marry an African-American? These types of people actually exist and the main issue with Chen's point here is that her use of the word "traditional" itself has no basis for reference. What exactly does it mean to be a "traditional Asian family" - Chen suggests that it means an entity that is implicitly racist but this is simply ignorant. The  term "traditional" has many possible meanings most of which don't assert racist attitudes. And there's more that shows the flawed thinking. Here she quotes Stephen Eliot of The Rumpus.....
To be desired is to be fetishized... this idea that I want someone to desire me but not objectify me with their desires is absurd. It's like saying I only want to date someone who is not attracted to people that look like me.Here's the thing, you already are a fetish. You are your lover's kink, exist within their circle of desire, starting with gender, and getting more specific from there." .........."In fact," he says, "there's no bad reason to love a person. A person is not less enlightened if they're only attracted to their own gender, or Asian women, or skinny people, or latex, or feet. You can objectify someone without treating them like an object."
Overall, a thought-inducing quote yet is it true that there are "no bad reasons to love a person"? I'm not sure who Stephen Eliot is, but I'm sure that there are psychologists out there who would disagree with his conclusion. Pedophiles love and fetishize children (and, perhaps, are able to convince themselves that their abuse of children is an act of love), women who have extremely low self-esteem love men who continue to beat the crap out of them because they think that is the best that they can do and some even feel that the beating they receive somehow "proves" their partner's love. There are plenty of examples where one's reasons for loving someone are extremely bad and destructive, yet Chen seems to accept this piece of pop-psych unquestioningly and wants you to do the same. Mothers and Fathers, please don't teach this principle to your daughters - it will make them ripe for abuse. Here's more.....
Long before the White Man set foot in China, having light skin was a sign of wealth and status, as it meant you didn't spend long hours toiling in the sun. Remember, Asian cultures are the ones that mass market skin-lightening creams, where people often get eyelid surgery to make their eyes bigger, i.e. less Asian. 
So what? This doesn't justify one's decision wave away biased attitudes, acceptance of racial stereotypes, and prejudice. All it shows is that Chen (and women like her) haven't, don't, or perhaps aren't capable of, thinking logically and deeply about the choices they make, the attitudes they express, or the prejudices they casually accept and dismiss as being beyond their control.

And this, perhaps is the most problematic aspect of Chen's piece. If we accept Chen's logic, Asian women and the choices they make are dependent on circumstances outside of their power to control; they are attracted to white men because of some television show they used to watch as a child that had a white hero, or they can't be blamed for their biases because they come from cultures that are biased (hey, so did I but I'm equal opportunity in my private life). In short, Chen has comically and unwittingly shown Asian women to be so dis-empowered that they have no control and choice over what they are able to think or do - their "choices" are actually pre-programmed responses to stimuli instilled from childhood. This is a remarkable claim and one that has some far-reaching philosophical and neuro-scientific implications - funnily enough, none of which Chen seemed to be consciously aware of.

So, in conclusion, by debating this undebatable subject, Asian men are helping to set the stage that gives voice and attention to a subject that is fundamentally irrelevant, and gives voice to people who have nothing significant to say at the expense of a nuanced and intelligent discussion of the Asian-American experience.

Don't let the dumb rule.

21 comments:

  1. Very well written Ben. Just wanted to stop in and say I appreciate the commentary.

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  2. there is such a thing as "racist love" in Asian-American and ethnic studies whereby power differential is projected unto the well behaved subservient minority.

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  3. Lol I remember I was telling this one pharmacist that I was working with about my first time dealing with racism at work. An elderly Vietnam war vet stared at me like he hated me so much and when I worked up courage to ask him if I could help him with anything he told me he "killed my dad in Nam." And then his wife walked up to him (whom was also Asian). And if I told her that if I could turn back time I would have told him I'm sorry that my dad fucked him up so bad he couldn't get a white girl. She wasn't happy to hear that and gave me the "He can't be racist if his wife is Asian!" argument. I told her that it's impossible for closet gays to be homosexual because they had a wife and kids. *Marcus Bachmann cough. cough.* And it got kind of quiet for the rest of the day lol.

    But then again, I told this to another female asian pharmacist a while back and she laughed so hard she cried. Sooo.... 1 for 2? But this makes me look back and laugh at that incident. Thanks for that.

    Also, great post Ben. If they don't like you for who you are, don't even bother The dating pool is only limited to what you limit it to. Women are beautiful. No matter what color.

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  4. "yeah, I ONLY date white guys"

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7xu2w6FL41rzhv5ho1_250.gif

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  5. Anonymous....

    Thanks for your comment and for stopping by!

    Defaultuser...

    Yes, the old racist love - encouraging stupidity since the 19th century!

    Tommy....

    Sounds exactly like the convoluted logic required to hold a conversation on this subject! Yes, laughing at it accomplishes two things; it lets you move on, and it infuriates the women who want to stereotype you as an angry Asian man.

    A.D....

    Hahaha! Exactly!

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  6. But after the laughing is done, the only thing I feel is disappointed. She's at this fancy schmancy ivy league school and she can talk about so many other issues that Asian Americans have. But she chooses to talk about rice chasers. Honestly. What a waste of potential.

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    1. Yep, exactly - and a waste of a precious mainstream media opportunity.

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  7. Wow, a selection of articles written by Asian women about dating... in which Asian men are completely invisible.

    I especially loved this passage:

    In the areas of California where I grew up, where Asians range from 20 to 50% of the student population, a college-age male would have to make an active effort to exclude Asian females from their dating pool. And that, my friends, would be pretty racist.

    I'm assuming Asian males are also part of this 20 to 50% of the student population. So a college-age female would have to make an active effort to exclude Asian males from their dating pool. Yet Chen matter-of-factly talks about her ilk only dating white guys. Wouldn't that, my friends, also be "pretty racist"?

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    1. Hey ES

      Haha. Right, I was going to write a point by point discussion of the piece but I then realized that Chen's thinking was so illogical that it defied deconstruction.

      That reveals a lot about what mainstream America values and is comfortable with regarding the Asian-American experience.

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    2. Yeah.. we Asians as a culture, apparently have so little self-esteem that(some of) our women have to throw us to the sharks. Go figure?

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    3. To be fair, I think there is some merit in Chen's overall point. There is often a knee-jerk reaction to brand any non-Asian guy who dates Asian women as a rice-chaser. I think that is unfair, and it is important to be a bit more discerning about what labels we throw around. A glance at my own dating history would seem like I have some kind of fetish for South Asian women, yet in truth I have cast my net wide and other races of women don't seem to be biting.

      And I think interracial dating is a fine thing, so long as it's not being driven by deluded racial stereotyping or internalized racism. What bugs me is that Chen doesn't seem to want to explore her own prejudices. The easiest way for her to avoid white guys with creepy fetishist attitudes would be to date Asian guys, but that option appears to be a total non-starter.

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    4. I think Chen has a valid point but I don't see much merit in it! Sure, not all white dudes who date Asian women are Asiaphiles - but does that really need spelling out? Isn't it obvious? Besides I don't see much evidence that this stereotypes of white men being Asiaphiles has had any detrimental effect on IR dating between Asian women and white men. Chen's point is valid but is so mundane that it is a pointless exercise making it.

      Which is really the crux of my criticism - of all the stereotypes and racism surrounding this specific dynamic of Asian women and white men dating Chen ignores all of the one's that have and do cause the most harm in society for men of colour and focused on a stereotype of a demographic that is basically harmless and a demographic that has every media and social means at their disposal to set the record straight in a way not available to minority men.

      It is not only an article that doesn't really say much, what it does say it says is amazingly topsy-turvy. I've always thought that the empty vessel makes the most noise and this article seems to illustrate that notion! I tend to think that if people don't have anything to say, then they shouldn't say anything. For Asian-Americans it seems that those who have the least to say are given the mainstream platforms to say it - particularly if what they are saying is either upholding the awesomeness of white dudes or upholding the lack of awesomeness of all things Asian.

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    5. Yes, I agree that you should be able to date whoever you want, but the problem I have is her own self-racism that she shrugs off like nothing. As well as somewhat flaunting the fact that she seems to be enjoying herself as an exotic fetish. Or maybe I'm reading it wrong *shrugs*

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  8. Chen's article is nothing but pathetic justification of white men's fetishism towards asian females, while further drowning out the voices of asian males that are the real victims of the constant abuse by the media.

    Too many conformists and cocksuckers out there. It's frustrating, huh? I guess that's an understatement for what we been through and STILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH.

    By the way Ben, I'm a fan of your blogs. You are a very talented blogger and a linguist. Your blogs are the CLOSEST to reality than every other so-called asian-empowerment sites. I thank you for that.

    There is another website that shares similar views as yourself - http://www.modelminority.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_ccboard&view=forumlist&Itemid=53

    Although it is constantly attacked by trolls and whiteys alike, the topics and the issues they raised there are both validly thought-provoking and enlightening to say the least.

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  9. Wolf

    Welcome and thanks for your comment. I would say Chen's article is problematic on many levels, one of which is definitely her underplaying of more serious and damaging racial stereotypes about Asian men and other men of colour.

    Thanks for your appreciation and I'm glad that my commentaries are striking a chord with other Asian men out there.

    I'm aware of modelminority and agree that they say things that need to be said but most Asians don't want to say. At the same time I think that occasionally some of the delivery doesn't necessarily pave the way for dialogue to occur which, as you say, leaves a vacuum for trolls to attack and demean the issues being discussed.

    And that is one of the major problems of intra-Asian-American intellectual dialogue - it is all too easy to dismiss those who have uncomfortable opinions because Asians as a group are generally marginalized. If we don't like what has been said it's easy to dismiss the person saying it as an "Angry Asian Man" or something similar and that person continues in his or her marginalized life even though they may have some of the most profound insights into our experience.

    That's why I think that reasoned and rational discourse, based on sound argumentation and an objective grasp of historical facts is the only way the kickstart an Asian-American intellectual tradition that is autonomous and strives for more than simply acceptance from mainstream America.

    Thanks again for your kind words!

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  10. Funny timing here Ben; I was discussing this topic with one of my Latino guy friends. I asked him if a lot of Latinas prefer whites over "their own" men. I was surprised by his response because he stated "it's mixed". Since I told him about how Asian men are seen as less manly, he was surprised as to how we (Asian men) are viewed since there isn't that problem with the Latinos.

    Oh and he's dating a white girl.

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    1. Hey dragon

      Unsurprisingly, we don't see any Latinas writing in mainstream publications about how comfortable they are with discriminating against men of colour, or how dysfunctional Hispanic people and cultures are. That would be racist.

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  11. Ben, great blog as usual, I wish I had the same talent with words.

    In regards to asiaphiles - didn't Mark Zuckerberg list "Asian girls" as "Things he enjoy doing"? http://gawker.com/5691841/when-facebook-ceos-was-publicly-obsessed-with-asian-girls

    It's interesting that his (asian) wife doesn't have any issues with that...Or are we supposed to believe that it was just 'love' that brought them together?

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    1. Hey N

      Thanks! I appreciate that feedback.

      As for Zuckerberg and his wife - don't try too hard to understand the details of it, it will make you crazy!

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    2. LOL, I'm of the 'addition by subcontraction' thought, so I'm not going to dwell on it.

      But just thought it's good to point out how blurred that line is. I'm sure that a significant amount of people will still argue that fetish had nothing to do with it.

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    3. asian women are desperately missing a feminist movement that "guards" themselves against prejudice, especially male prejudice from other races e.g. whites. Consider black or non white men listing openly in public that they "do white girls" - and then white women who read this shrugging their shoulders and still entering a relationship with them anyway.

      It simply doesn't happen. The asian female mindset is extremely warped, and supposedly intelligent (in academia only) women like Chen are fundamentally deformed in the head when it comes to race. I do think this is the fault of the parents, who have a duty not only to raise their children up educated but also confident and proud of their identity and heritage, and to teach them how to deal with bias and racism, whether direct or subtle, in a white majority country.

      For too long their main focus has primarily been on academic education, not realising that to create a well rounded human being with a well reasoned mind you need to focus on cultural and social education as well, especially as a minority.

      Which is why the interracial family rates amongst asian women are so damaging... there would be no doubting that US born asian parents would realise the mistakes their parents made with them and teach their kids accordingly. But because most asian women are raising white kids - effectively taking the "I want to be assimilated and have no identity in future generations" route - such asians will be a rare sight in the future.

      As for me, I simply can't imagine having grandchildren that look nothing like me, a completely different race from me.

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