Expanding The Narrative Of Asian Male Empowerment.
It might be an understatement to say that the so-called "Interracial-dating/marriage" disparity has been one of the most heavily discussed, argued over, and picked-apart, subjects in all of Asian-America. If I am wrong in that assessment, then at the very least it might be true to say that it is the one Asian-American "issue" that arouses the most interest both within the community and even, perhaps, in mainstream America. Although there are other issues that have, in recent years, become the subject of mainstream discussion (caps on Asians in college admissions, for instance), it is the subject of Asian women not dating Asian men, and specifically choosing white men, that has come to almost define the way that Asians are conceived of in the US. That is, "Asian" stories or issues that make it in the mainstream most often do so through the filter of the feminine Asian voice, and, of course, given credence by the authority of the white male presence of their partners.
Although the common understanding is that there is widespread hostility amongst Asian-American men towards the ubiquitous partnerships of white men and Asian women, I believe that the degree of opposition is exaggerated. Creating conflict around the disparity is a great way to generate the kind of internet drama that fosters increased traffic on blogposts and media articles. As I suggested here any apparent conflict may be largely manufactured by the media and/or an exuberant Asian female half of the IR partnership, eager to claim their dating choices have contributed to world peace. This may be because of the natural tendency in human behaviour to inflate the significance of one's own life choices. Thus, seemingly in the minds of some of those Asian women in these relationships, their choice to date white dudes is some kind of transcendental phenomena, with epic significance for our society in particular and humankind in general. Given this "axiom", there must be opposition because, as we all know, epic shifts in human consciousness are always opposed - just think of Ghandi and MLK!
Yet, sadly, the fact remains that there is a vocal minority - usually on the internet - that approaches the IR disparity with a venom and vulgarity that I think is more detrimental to the cause of Asian male empowerment than it is helpful. Often, amongst these guys, there is an attitude that Asian women marrying white men somehow weakens Asian resolve (or dilutes the blood), and that there has to be some kind of racial purity (in extreme cases) in order for Asians to be empowered. Many of these guys will also banish the idea of finding partners outside of their own race - either because they adhere to some notion of race purity, or because they will tell themselves that non-Asian women just wouldn't be interested in them. To me, these attitudes do more to perpetuate the disempowerment of Asian men than any outmarriage disparity.
The problem here is that there is an implicit notion that Asian women's dating choices are vital to the empowerment of Asian men. Not only is this nonsense, it is also itself disempowering, not to mention (to borrow a popular nineties term) unhealthily co-dependent. By tying Asian male empowerment so tightly into the actions and choices of Asian women, these guys are, effectively, saying that they have no power unless Asian women make choices that empower them. That means that Asian male empowerment is contingent upon the actions of others. I reject this notion. Although ostensibly active and angry, such an approach upon closer scrutiny reveals itself to be passive and far from empowered.
That is not to deny that there do exist some Asian women whose willingness to overlook racism in the interest of expanding their interracial dating choices assists in the propagation of anti-Asian racism, but even in these cases, it is not essential or perhaps even desireable to want to change these people's attitudes for Asian men to empower themselves. It also doesn't mean that it is wrong to want or expect Asian women to support the empowerment of Asian men, it simply means that any movement to empower Asian men should be solid enough to achieve its goals even when Asian women seem to be actively contributing to the racism that disempowers Asian men.
In addition to this, focusing on IR relationships between Asian women and white men, by its very nature takes focus and energy away from focusing on our own stories and ideas. If you want Asian men's stories to be heard, then you tell Asian men's stories, if you want Asian women and white men's stories to be heard, then you focus on Asian women and white men. In my opinion, the sociological and cultural impact of Asian women and white male relationships is so insignificant that it doesn't even warrant thinking about. I can think of no significant changes in the way that Asians are represented culturally, or conceived of sociologically, that could be said to have resulted from the high out-marriage rates of Asian women. None. It should seem obvious then, that to make it central to the Asian-American dialogue elevates the subject to a level way more significant than it deserves.
But, some of you may wonder, what about the suggestion that poor media representation and absence of culturally appropriate and inclusive Asian male role-models contributes to the supposed lack of desirability of Asian men and hence the high outmarriage rates of Asian-American women? It is almost certainly true, that these things may hinder the smooth integration of Asian men socially, but the problem doesn't, and won't, get resolved by elevating dialogue on the disparity at the expense of the actual problem of poor cultural representation. Doing this, in fact, further marginalizes the dialogue on America's cultural exclusion of Asian men - which is a subject that is significant in and of itself without bringing the disparity into the equation.
Even more importantly, is that we, as Asian men, have a responsibility to model behaviours, attitudes, and ways of thinking for younger generations of Asian boys. So, are we fulfilling our obligations as role-models by allowing ourselves to be distracted from addressing the structural issues that propagate anti-Asian attitudes and behaviours, which are likely to be significant factors in marginalizing Asian men even from Asian women? I think not. The Asian male voice needs to focus on the specific issues facing us. It is almost impossible to change people unless they want to change - that means if an Asian woman wants to date white men, you won't be able to change her. But it is far easier (though not necessarily easy) to change culture through cultivating and finding expression for your voice. Because people, by and large, follow the dictates of their culture, it is easier to change attitudes and behaviour through changing culture via ideas, as opposed to changing unwilling people to think differently to the cultural mainstream.
And this segues nicely into my next point. One major reason there is a disparity is that some Asian men are simply unwilling to, themselves, consider dating outside of their race. There may be several reasons for this. Naturally, because Asian men are excluded culturally, their smooth social integration may be hindered by the lack of culture-appropriate role-models who set precedents of behaviour that Asian boys can emulate. As I've written many times before, the lack of inclusive cultural representations of Asian men, in tandem with representations that explicitly demean Asians, may contribute to this lack of social confidence that many Asian boys and young Asian men experience (and, no, don't blame Asian parenting - it isn't the job of parents to teach you how to get laid or talk to girls - young men and boys learn how to do those things by hanging around other boys who model how to do those things and dare each other to do those things).
This is what makes it all the more imperative that Asian men become the role-models that American culture denies to young Asian males. Just because it isn't broadcast to the masses, it doesn't mean that our efforts as role-models are negated, and my sense is that one of the best ways for Asian men to not feel oppressed by the hostile culture we live in, is to develop that inner sense of confidence and self-knowledge such that we are bruised but not beaten by the culture of racism. Insisting - as some Asian guys do - that all is lost in life and love because stereotypes have us irretrievably beaten down, is worse than the stereotypes themselves and does little to empower Asian men.
The implication of all of this, is that it is the duty of Asian-American men to be the architects of Asian-American culture. We've tried the feminine approach, and all it has gotten us is a library of non-confrontational feminine voices in the mainstream arena, whose primary concern seems to be the avoidance of causing discomfort in mainstream America by not speaking candidly and directly about the Asian race experience. We certainly don't have what we could reasonably call an "Asian-American" culture that results from this approach. So, assuming the personal responsibility for role-modeling behaviour and ways of thinking for younger generations, is to begin the process of culture building, and there is no room in this process for the IR discussion and all of the negativity it heaps onto Asian men.
So, the question is, how do we "deal" with the IR disparity? Here are my suggestions in no particular order of importance;
1) Stop focusing on it. By focusing on the phenomenon we are actually supporting the mainstreaming of it at the expense of our own narratives and other more significant Asian-American narratives.
2) Don't let media and cultural stereotypes hold you back. I hear too many Asian guys talking about how they stand absolutely no chance with the opposite sex because the media makes Asian men look bad. While it is true about demeaning stereotypes, it isn't true that they could absolutely prevent Asian men from having fulfilling relationships - that seems like an excuse to me. There are plenty of Asian men who show that this is not the case, and I have personally seem butt-ugly, short, Asian dudes with extremely attractive women.
3) Stop saying and believing that the fact of Asian women dating white men is an implicit reinforcement of negative stereotypes about Asian men. Or more precisely, stop believing that this can or should prevent you from being the entity that you want to be. In the minds of some people, it may be true that these relationships reinforce stereotypes about Asian men, but so what? You don't even have to overcome or counter these beliefs - just do and be what it is you want to do and be and that's enough.
4) Stop believing that empowering Asian men is somehow dependent on Asian women's dating choices - it isn't. The more we believe that Asian male empowerment is tied into Asian women's choices, the less we will be empowered.
5) Help a brother out! One indication of empowerment is to recognize your experience in the experience of others like you, and to act on the behalf of those others. It is a vague notion that probably requires a blogpost of its own, but for this post all I will say is that at the root of this concept is the idea that you don't allow a brother to stand alone in any situation where you see them being treated disrespectfully - in other words, help to provide the space for your Asian brothers to live out their narratives by re-focusing your frustrations onto real-world situations where we can make observable contributions to empowerment.
6) Don't complain that there are not enough girls to go around and then limit your choices by refusing to date outside of your race. Adaptation is survival. So expand your horizons - difficult I know for those who have experienced racism, but there are enough girls to go around if you stop limiting yourself. I know this is not as easy as it sounds because American culture (and hence society) provides no conception of how to interact with Asians - except for in demeaning ways - and thus, socialization for Asian men has unique obstacles. But in a way, this is a good thing because you can create your own story about who you are - you just have to develop the willpower and determination to pull it off.
7) Embrace and develop your "outsider" identity because that is what we are. It doesn't matter if you are in a six-figure job, if you are Asian and male, you are still an outsider and that is good because the goal isn't to work your way to the inside, but to understand that there is power being on the outside. Once we recognize and embrace this fact, then we can learn to understand the historical precedents that determine our modern-day experience - and an autonomous Asian-American culture could emerge. And one of the antidotes to IR is more Asian-American male driven culture.
8) And finally, just stop giving a crap about IR. Trust me! I have been in situations around IR couples where my indifference to it has enraged the female half of the equation. For some Asian women who don't date Asian men (not all or perhaps even most), the angry Asian man is an integral part of their identity - that is, their life has that effect on the world. When you remove that Asian male anger, such women are at a loss, and it can be gratifying when you realize that you have destroyed someone's pre-conceptions about you just by being indifferent. In other words, some Asian women need angry Asian men to reinforce their own "I only date white guys" identities - don't be that guy.
This in no way suggests that the IR disparity does not in some ways reflect underlying mainstream prejudices that target Asian men specifically - because I think it is pretty obvious that American culture propagates negative attitudes and behaviours towards Asian men. But my point is that it does not empower Asian men - nor offer good role models for Asian boys - to narrow the focus of the dialogue such that every other aspect and manifestation of gendered anti-Asian racism becomes lost from the narrative.