Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interracial Dating And The Disparity.

Are Asian Male Concerns Justified?

There was an interesting discussion over on the bigWOWO website that began as a post about the increasing visibility of black female and white male pairings in popular cultural productions. Naturally, the discussions moved rapidly onto the Asian-American disparity in interracial dating. The most interesting point to be raised concerned the idea of whether there is merit to the, sometimes, zealous, concern exhibited by Asian men for the reportedly-higher-than-usual-outmarriage/dating-rates-of Asian women and the documented reluctance of women of all races to consider Asian men as suitable partners. Or, is the subject unworthy of exploration, that can and should be dismissed as mere navel-gazing for a "privileged" demographic?

Some suggest that by way of comparison to other issues like discrimination in the workplace and race-engendered poverty, the complaints of Asian men on their stereotype-hampered dating and marriage opportunities are merely trite distractions from more significant issues. On the face of it, the idea that discrimination in the workplace is more significant than attitudes in dating choices that discriminate against specific racial groups seems logical. Denying or hampering people's opportunities to find gainful employment or be treated fairly in the promotion process seem vastly more important than whether any given Asian man is able to get a date. Yet, the two issues are interconnected and more similar than most of us are willing to acknowledge.

Institutional racism no longer exists. There are no laws that mandate racial discrimination in employment and housing - in fact, those found to have pursued a practice of prejudice can be, and often are, levied with penalties and legal judgements for doing so. What this means is that in the hiring/promotion process, housing, and any other activity of society, prejudice is only - can only - ever be practiced as a matter of personal choice. If an employer decides before he or she has interviewed an applicant that they will not be hired because of the race of said applicant, then that is personal-choice discrimination, which may be based on ideas and beliefs derived from cultural stereotyping that shape the employer's attitudes and willingness to work or live in close proximity with minorities. The similarity to racialized partner choices is obvious.

Stereotypes and preconceived notions shape people's decision making in hiring and housing just as much as they shape their decisions in personal relationships. Refusing to hire or rent to a minority person because you don't want to spend eight-hours a day with them in the office, or see them next door every morning and evening when you come and go from your home, is fundamentally the same process as dismissing minorities as life partners. This is especially true when both actions could arguably be the result of an adherence to casual media racial stereotypes that propagates ideas of things like minority criminality or diminished masculinity.

Ostensibly, it might seem absurd to consider dating and marriage opportunities to be anywhere near as significant as workplace and housing discrimination. Yet, underlying dating and marriage is the biologically-driven function of procreation and partnering, which happen to be one of the primary functions of most of the animal and plant life on the planet. In fact, apart from the survival instinct, the drive to procreate and partner is probably one of the most fundamental drives in human nature - and sometimes the drive to leave progeny outweighs even the survival instinct, as evidenced by accounts of people risking their own lives to save their own, or even other people's, children. Concerns about prejudices and derogatory stereotypes that hamper one's capacity to find a partner and engage in the function of procreation taps into and threatens an extremely profound human physiological function. Clearly, this is not a laughing matter, nor is it necessarily less significant than issues of discrimination in other areas of life, and neither should these concerns be summarily dismissed as merely the whines of men who can't get dates.

In fact, there is no moral difference between personal race-based preferences in employment and housing and in personal race-based choices in whom people choose to date and marry. The difference is one of legality, yet, it raises uncomfortable questions about the role that civil society plays in maintaining racist attitudes and hierarchies, particularly in the creative arts industries that possibly exert the greatest influence over society's conception of racial minorities and these minority's capacity to fully enjoy the fruits of democratic life.

A comparison to the struggle for gay marriage rights and illustrates the powerful role that civil society can play in bringing about political change. Promotion of gay marriage rights has occurred both in the legislative and judicial branches of government but, interestingly, has also seen a strong promotional drive amongst private institutions particularly cultural institutions. In other words, not only has the fight for gay marriage rights had a legal component, there has also been a significant drive within civil society to promote it, especially in the media.

An article in the online magazine Wired suggests that this drive in civil society to present positive images of gay men and women that normalize their life-choices has correlated with an increase of tolerance and acceptance of gay marriage. This is what it says...
Back in 2008—clearly a big year for LGBT rights—the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and a research team from Harris Interactive did a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults 18 and older and found that two in 10 of them had changed their views of gays and lesbians in the previous five years to a more favorable one. 
Their reasons? Some said it was because they knew a gay person, some said news programs shifted their views, others noted that family or friends had persuaded them. Also, 34 percent said their views were influenced by seeing gay or lesbian characters on TV, and 29 percent said it was by a gay or lesbian character on film.
What is significant here, is this interplay between the work of governing institutions and the activities of civil society. Healthy democracies adhere to a strict separation of government influence in civil society, yet, as the article above illustrates, the activities of civil society have the potential to create shifts in public opinion to the extent that it can affect the degree of support any given issue receives and, hence, the political dialogue itself.

Since the fight for gay marriage rights has involved, both a political activism to legalize it and the social activism of civil society to create more positive perceptions of, and accepting attitudes for, gay partnerships in general, it is inconsistent to claim that society and politics view people's personal relationships - or more specifically, their opportunities to pursue relationships unhindered by political or societal sanction - as somehow irrelevant or less significant than other issues. The two-pronged assault on anti-gay prejudices that is legally discriminatory and socially hampers their pursuit of meaningful and open relationships offers a clear indication that both politics and civil society views freedom to pursue relationships, unhindered by prejudices, as a significant issue.

Thus, Asian men's concerns about the negative impact that racist attitudes and civil society-driven stereotypes have on their capacity to pursue meaningful relationships are far from insignificant. It is merely a measure of the marginalization of the Asian-American experience that these concerns are scorned by both the mainstream, but even more significantly, within Asian-America itself. What this amounts to is that even Asian-Americans are utilizing the structures and sensibilities of mainstream America to participate in the marginalization of Asian men.

The process of choosing a partner is one of the most significant decisions one can make in life, and is arguably the most important decision that many people will ever make, and for most people is the single most defining decision of their lives. Is it funny or deserving of eye-rolling impatience when Asian-American men notice that this primordial drive, that is fundamental to almost all biological existence, is being hampered and hindered by a civil society that normalizes dehumanizing stereotypes of them, and a political culture that plays off xenophobic doubts of Asian humanity to win votes? After all, limiting the growth, influence, and identity of any minority through demeaning them culturally is as serious as racist immigration policies that seek to do the same.

At this point, it is worth noting that there may be a specific demographic component that contributes to the heated nature of much of the dialogue on this issue that takes place mainly on internet spaces. My observation and sense is that those Asian men who complain the most vehemently about the disparity seem to hail largely from one of two age-groups; the mid- to late-teens (or high school graduate age), or the late-teen to early-, mid-twenties age range.

If this observation is accurate, this is significant because such young adults represent a demographic that we could call the "pre-accomplished" and that partnering anxieties amongst Asian men in this demographic may be amplified and interwoven with the normal maturation stage experienced by men of all groups during which they strive to discover a mature identity. In other words, at an age when there is a biological and cultural shift into a life stage when it is normal to notice and want to connect with the opposite sex, young Asian men discover that culture and society have created an environment that hampers this normal process.

What this could also suggest is the possibility that the shift from childhood into young adulthood, and from high-school to college, for Asian-American men marks a first direct acquaintance with the outcome of gender-specific anti-Asian racism. That is not to say that young Asian-American boys do not experience racism prior to high-school graduation - which many, perhaps most of us, do. It means that for many young Asian-American men the shift into the college and young adult environment comes with a realization that all of that casual racism they may have experienced throughout childhood from peers reflects far more than merely "kids being mean", and may, in fact, reflect a pervasive conditioning process for American society that demeans Asian people and their cultures, but also normalizes and legitimizes mainstream America's intrusion into our personal and private sexual particulars as well our opportunities to fulfill fundamental human drives like partnering and procreation.

Those (specifically, within the community) who condemn and ridicule young Asian men for reacting angrily to such a process are not only skirting the negative side of moral behaviour, they are launching a fundamental attack on the wider process of Asian-American empowerment and efforts towards normalization of our community issues. For instance, we pay lip-service to the poor state of mental health awareness within the community and decry the culture of shame of this issue within Asian-America. Yet, all too often - actually more often than not - Asian men are dismissed as pathetic and annoying for reacting angrily to what is an injustice as significant as workplace discrimination. All of the emotional and possibly psychological processes that go hand-in-hand with that be damned.

In summary, given that personal choice drives both workplace discrimination and partnering choices, it seems arbitrary to claim some kind of moral primacy for one issue over the other. Thus, Asian male concerns about the cultural and social hampering of their partnering opportunities are legitimate concerns - as legitimate as concerns about cultural and social stereotypes that make some people not want to live near or hire minorities. Both are about personal choice. Granted, the aggressive and sometimes abusive approach of some Asian men - usually on internet spaces - is not conducive to dialogue, but to label even this type of reaction as merely some kind of bitterness or lack of game, avoids the possibility that there may be a poorly mapped road for how to deal with anti-Asian racism in general, and gender-specific, anti-Asian male racism in particular. In short, a summary dismissal of the subject is tantamount to marginalizing a demographic because they have not figured out a way to address the racism in their lives.

Asian male concerns about casual racist beliefs that hinder their partnering opportunities arguably derive from the same process that drives workplace discrimination, and, thus, deserves a more empathetic response from the community, as well as a more significant place in the Asian-American dialogue on our racialized experiences. To do otherwise is to uphold racism.

13 comments:

  1. Where is this place you are referring to where institutional racism doesn't exist? What you see as the non-existence of institutional racism, I see as a more refined practice of racism. Just because there are no laws explicitly mandating the practice of racism doesn't mean racism is not being practiced. Even some white people can admit that institutional racism still exists (even if they don't plan on ceasing to practice themselves). If you don't believe that, I can drop some names or examples. In that regard, you hold the exact same view as many racists/white supremacists.

    When people decide to practice racism on a coordinated, group basis, that is not simply "personal choice discrimination". Also, laws don't need to be made to carry out those practices, it just takes people participating together. The people are the institution, not the laws.

    bigWOWO once told me that racism is not a problem. He also admitted to me that he is on the path to becoming "white". I can drop a link for that too, if you don't believe it. It seems like you may have the same views and attitudes. Are you on that same path?

    Am I misunderstanding your definition?

    One of the main reasons European elites had in mind when establishing the system of white supremacy was to give white men full access to all women while restricting, limiting and controlling the mating activities of non-white males. Controlling sex was always very important in the operation of the system of white supremacy. If you look at Colonial Spanish America and the practices around invention of the "white race" in the US in the 17th century, it is not difficult to see examples of that fact.

    That's basically the same element in play now that is affecting Asian-American males. White people want to increase their numbers to adapt to the rising non-white population. Lighter-skinned non-white females will be used to help achieve that goal. They can more consistently produce offspring that will look more "white", can pass for white, be accepted as "white" by other white people and function as a "white" person (or at least be socially white or be granted conditional "white"-ness).

    Also keep in mind the rise and push for more "trans-racial adoptions" by white people. That will give white people even more access to and influence on non-white children. There are implications of that will likely add more negative effect to the IR dating disparity.

    Same games, same tricks. What you think no longer exists, I see as just being refined. Denying the existence of what you call "institutional racism" is itself upholding racism, is it not? I don't know what world you live in where institutional racism doesn't exist, but it must be nice.

    Racism/white supremacy is such a big factor in this problem, but it seems like the focus on that is avoided in the post. Instead vague, confusing terms like "civil society" are used. That doesn't make sense. I don't know what your definition of "civil society" is, but a civilized society does not "normalize dehumanizing stereotypes", maintain racist attitude and hierarchies, or doubt people's humanity by promoting xenophobia. We don't live in a civilized society. Looking at the way we treat each other, we can't claim society to be civil. We live in a system of racism/white supremacy. That term "civil society" can be thrown out the window. Without the use of accurate terms, how are you going to facilitate a clear understanding of the problem? Unless that is not your intent...

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    1. Rashnu

      Where did I say that racism does not exist? The post is about a more refined practice of racism - so refined, in fact, that it is dismissed as irrelevant even within the community.

      If you can show me that in the US there are laws that mandate racism - i.e. institutes a policy of racism - then I may be wrong about institutional racism no longer existing. But as far as I know, in the US there are no laws that make discrimination of any sort a requirement or render it lawful.

      There's some good information about civil society here....
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_society

      The term "civil society" has nothing to do with the level of civility of a society. I thought that it was a common enough term that I would not need to post a link to any definition. It is the activity of any organization - formal or informal - that work outside of, and independent from government. I'll add a link in the post.

      In short, I'm not seeing how you got this idea that I was saying that racism does not exist. The post clearly says that racism does still exist, and that it is ito a good degree driven by attitudes present in the activities of civil society - particularly in the area of media and culture

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    2. You didn't say that racism doesn't exist, you said institutional racism doesn't exist. I say that it does. White people are the institution -- with white supremacy being the dominant functioning form of racism.

      Laws are not needed to explicitly mandate racism. Laws can be made to produce and facilitate the practice of racism without directly stating so.

      One recent example of instituting racism I saw is Texas House Bill 5. It reduces the graduation requirements of high school students. The reasoning white people gave for instituting that policy was that many jobs that students will be going into after graduation don't require classes in higher maths and sciences. There is no program in place for the students who don't take enough higher math and science to get those jobs. Those jobs will not be there for them after they graduate, nor will they be properly prepared for college. Most of those kids will be non-white (especially darker-skinned ones). At the same time, advanced placement (white placement) courses are way too white. Are you making the connection? The result is that more white students are separated out and placed ahead of an increasing number of non-white students that will fall further behind. Universities will not be changing their requirements to adjust to the lower requirements put in place. Many uninformed students may be ruined by this.

      Those policies don't overtly mandate racism, but the intent and result is that it will facilitate the practice of racism/white supremacy. White people, as the institution themselves, will carry out these policies and practices. Of course, they will not directly state that they are practicing racism through those policies because refined racism can still produce the results they desire.

      Would you interpret that example differently?

      Why not use a more specific, accurate term than "civil society", that more clearly points to the what and who is most responsible for causing the problem? I'll use a sentence from your last comment for example, but substitute for the term "civil society": "...racism does still exist, and that it is to a good degree driven by attitudes present in the activities of the people who classify themselves as 'white'..." Is that not more accurate?

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    3. Rashnu

      Institutional racism means just what I said - laws that require racist practices and make such practices legal. And you will have to explain why lower standards will separate the races, because the reasoning in your comment is not clear.

      The term "civil society" is as accurate and concise as it comes Rashnu, and to be honest your concerns on that point are somewhat irrelevant to the ideas outlined in the post.

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    4. My point is just that overt institutional racism is hard to find (or does not exist, as you stated), but it still exists. Some terms are changed around in the laws, but the result will be the same: facilitation of the practice of racism.

      http://qz.com/289843/60-years-late-the-us-is-finally-trying-to-desegregate-its-classrooms/

      Lower standards and lower expectations of non-white students (especially Black, Latino, and some dark-skinned Asians and Pacific Islanders) caused by the prejudiced and racist attitudes and views of school faculty (mainly white women) result in more dark-skinned non-white people being guided away from higher educational attainment not because of their academic ability, but because of the white people (mainly white women) in schools practicing racism. There are no laws explicitly mandating that practice, it's just what they do.

      My comment on the "civil society" term went on a tangent a little, but the point was just to ask why don't you be more specific about identifying the problem. There is a particular group of people that are the source of this problem; they classify themselves as "white". Identifying the problem as such will lead to a clearer understanding. You don't think so? Do you see a problem in directly identifying the problem?

      You didn't answer my question. Are you also on the path to becoming "white"? Are your views, attitudes and the way you express them more reflective of the dominant white society? Like bigWOWO admitted? As other groups that have become "white", but were not "white" at first?

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  2. Hi Ben, another excellent post. I agree with what you said, but I've thought of something else. I used to think that natural selection had ended for humans when we developed the ability to control and alter our environment as well as being able to take care of our sick and injured. However I was mistaken. Natural selection is still going on, and that is the mechanism of reproduction and mate selection. Lets extrapolate some long term trends. Assume there is no further immigration from Asian countries. If Asian women numerically select non Asian men as mates percentage wise, then the Asian race will be extinct within a few generations. Just look at the Native Americans now. From a thriving population of hundreds of millions, what do their descendents look like today?

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    1. Apollyon

      Interesting points. I don't think that the idea of Asian immigration decreasing is too far-fetched. I think that if the 11 million or so, mainly Hispanic undocumented immigrants have their "illegal" status waived, then the reaction and maybe even the pay-off for bi-partisan cooperation will be to slam the doors shut to future large-scale immigration.

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  3. then we really needed to have much more male sex selection to close the gender gap. otherwise this interracial scene will continue on and on and we can suck it up and got no one to blame but ourselves.

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  4. Good piece.

    I like the bit about mental health. I'm going to stop here before I launch into an assault on a certain "activist" "dr".

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  5. "Yet, all too often - actually more often than not - Asian men are dismissed as pathetic and annoying for reacting angrily to what is an injustice as significant as workplace discrimination. All of the emotional and possibly psychological processes that go hand-in-hand with that be damned."

    Exactly. I don't know if you're familiar with the "gaslighting" concept from the field of Psychology but that's how I perceive the situation as. Asian men are the only ones directly and negatively impacted on by the IR disparity and so we speak up and we get told it's not a problem and if we think it's a problem there must be something wrong with us. It leaves a lot of Asian men doubting our own sanity. It's basically society-wide gaslighting of Asian men.

    Thanks for writing so cogently on the issue. I came over from bigWowo after reading your comments there and I'll definitely be sticking around following your thoughts. Keep writing!

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    1. Kevin

      Welcome and thanks for reading! I think that one of the problems is that Asian guys have tended to focus their angst on the Asian women who date out, thus making Asian women the focus of the discussion and, implicitly, the key to the solution. They should be neither!

      Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you stopped by!

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  6. Hi Ben!

    I just found your blog and have to say that you're doing a great job. You can probably tell that I'm one of the commenters over from bigWOWO. I posted there because I was seeking information on the Asian interracial disparity and was hoping to learn more from others who might be knowledgable. That didn't go so well. If you look, you can see that all I got was a room full of psychopaths (I mean, wtf?).

    Anyway, you mentioned somewhere about "gender wars" that occurred on the Asian American blogosphere during the 90s and up to the mid-2000s. This caught my interest because you are not the first person to say that. As you know, "Yellow Fever" by WongFu Productions was made in 2005, at the supposed height of the interracial disparity. But it seems that ever since, online activity over this subject matter has died down.

    I wanted to know why, to the best of your knowledge. This issue hasn't gone away, so I don't understand why people are less vocal about it now. What happened over the last 10 years?

    Again, I love your blog and would greatly appreciate your response.

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    1. Hi Kiwi

      Thanks for posting and welcome!

      You pose an interesting question and one that I am not sure how I can answer fully. But I can offer an opinion!

      I think that firstly technology changed. Whereas, before, Asian-Americans were mostly interacting on forums and websites where the kind of interaction one could have might have been limited to frantically typed arguments, by the mid-2000's there were platforms like facebook, YouTube and others that expanded how people could express themselves. In other words, you could suddenly do more with the internet than rant.

      I think that these platforms enabled Asians to expand their horizons so to speak and allowed them to use the new platforms to showcase abilities and qualities that were more important to them than the IR disparity. This meant that Asians were able to connect with one another over a broader spectrum of interests and subjects.

      Secondly, I think that folks just got tired. Those conversations just never got anywhere and I doubt that Asian men ranting over the internet changed many Asian women's hearts and minds. And it could also be that many of the folks who were vocal about IR simply realized that they could find partners despite the disparity.

      Thirdly, from Asian guys' perspective I think that they simply moved on and got on with life and realized that they have more options than they probably believed. I think that there are some raw numbers from a dating site recently that shows that Asian men respond less to Asian women but more to Hispanic women. They've expanded their horizons.

      Hope that sheds some light on it!

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