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White Woman’s Burden
man kneeling in front of woman
My mother is a Jewish white girl from Delaware and my father came to the U.S. from Hong Kong as an immigrant med student. In the south, in the 70’s, when my mother tried to sign a credit card slip as “Mrs. Chan,” it got her arrested for fraud. No one would believe she was married to a Chinese man, and when she was out for a stroll with her Asian-featured babies, strangers at the mall always asked where she got us. After 20+ years of marriage, theirs recently ended in divorce. Fast-forward to my dating life: because of the environments I’ve grown up in (a white, upper-class Massachusetts suburb and a predominately white liberal arts college) I’ve only ever dated white boys. Unlike my parents though, no one has ever questioned me dating outside my race or looked askance at my relationships. My current boyfriend has a white mother who grew up internationally and a white, Jewish father. As children of Jews and foreigners, in many ways it feels like we’re intrinsically the same, but racially we’re not. As a bi-racial Asian woman dating white guys, technically I’ve only ever been in interracial relationships, but it’s never really felt that way. On paper my parents were an interracial couple and my boyfriend and I are an interracial couple, but the way we are viewed by society and they way we’re treated is fundamentally different. Part of that has to do with the communities I’ve lived in versus my parents, but most of it I believe is not only about race, but gender. According to Loveawake dating site research, mixed-race marriages are statistically 13% more likely to end in divorce than same-race pairings. And, the most ill fated pairings overwhelmingly occur when the woman in the relationship is white. Gori Girl, a white American woman married to a Bengali man, does a great job here breaking down divorce statistics and brings to light some unexpected facts, most notably:
  • Interracial marriages that have one white person and one person of another race mostly only show higher divorce rates when the white spouse is a female (i.e. white guy + other race girl don’t show particularly high divorce rates compared to same-race couples).
  • Black husband/white wife marriages are twice as likely to divorce as white/white marriages, and Asian husband/white wife marriages are about 60% more likely to divorce as white/white marriages.
  • White husband/black wife were nearly 50% less likely to divorce than white/white couples, and white husband/Asian wife couples had pretty much the same divorce rate as white/white couples. (emphasis own)
Apparently some pairings are, on average, more difficult than others. Couples like my parents, a white woman and an Asian man, were in trouble (statistically speaking) from the start. On the flip side, it seems that a black woman and a white man have an institutional advantage, with a lower probability of divorce than a same race couple. To me, the real question is: why is it intrinsically more difficult for white women to date outside their race? I doubt that white women are inherently more racist than any other group; rather, I think that the lens through which society views these relationships adds its own unique strain. White men taking women of other races has historical precedents in slavery, imperialism, even Vietnam war-brides. Distasteful or not, culturally, we are more used to seeing white men take “exotic” wives. White men are congratulated for bringing home an interesting prize and seen as sophisticated. Conversely, non-white men have a much harder time bringing home a white woman to their families. Black men can be seen as traitors. My Chinese father was disowned by his parents for marrying a white woman. Only years later did they “re-own” him to have access to their grandchildren, but still made it a point to ridicule my mother for pouring tea wrong. For white women, there’s simply a higher degree of cultural discomfort- people’s minds don’t easily jump to realize that your husband is black, Hispanic, Vietnamese…they’re more likely to think your kids are adopted. Inter-racial dating itself isn’t necessarily the challenge- what matters is which side of the equation you’re on. Currently, society makes it easier and more acceptable for white men to date outside their race than women. My mother is dating a wonderful white guy now. She’s ecstatic.
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