Here, in Eastern Europe, seeing white girls with an Asian guy — and what’s even more shocking — a guy shorter than her, it just blows people’s minds! People in the street are staring at you in a sarcastic way or sometimes even making comments like “what is she doing with him? Are they really dating each other?!” Even my friends find it hard to understand. So I wanted to ask you, if situations like this happened to you, how did you feel that time, was it bothering you? Did you feel hurt? How did you overcome this prejudice?
As I wrote before, I’ve never actually had anyone say anything negative about John and I to my face. But, look, I’ve experienced enough bullying as a child and adolescent (kids used to make fun of me because of my “plain Jane” looks, and my quiet, sensitive and awkward personality) to fill a lifetime of bad made-for-TV afterschool specials. So believe me, I totally understand how you feel.
Still, my reaction depends on the source of that negativity.
Let’s say some anonymous asshole shouted some racist crap at John and I in some shopping center in downtown Cleveland, a place I go to maybe once a year, if that. Sure, it’ll bother me, but only temporarily — I’ll shake it off sometime, if not sooner than later. Ultimately, it’s something random, I don’t know them, so in the grand scheme of things, what they think doesn’t mean squat.
On the other hand, let’s say it came from a friend — maybe not the same blatant crap as the guy above, but something nevertheless judgmental and racist. Something that makes you feel as if there’s something so disastrously wrong with you because you dared to date someone different. “Bothered” wouldn’t even begin to describe my reaction — try “betrayed,” with a generous dose of tears. Ditto if it came from people who have control or power over your life (which was the case with my husband).
Sometimes, when you dare to love “outside the lines” so to speak, it opens you up to a new — and sometimes ugly — reality, even in your own country. People who once embraced you with open arms might, all of sudden, slam the door in your face in all kinds of ways. As I once wrote, “It’s an education that nobody asks for….” — especially when you get it from the people you thought would always be there for you.
Any “friend” who dares to challenge or question your decision to date an Asian man should have their friendship status revoked immediately. Just don’t expect to feel as if you’re “walking on sunshine” after you sever the ties. We often “mourn” broken friendships much like a breakup, and sometimes the lost friendships hurt more because they lasted longer.
Also, do whatever you can to distance yourself from the negativity. I know, easier said than done sometimes. But one thing you can do to empower yourself is with better company. In other words, find yourself friends who understand the kind of prejudice you’re dealing with — that might be other people in cross-cultural or interracial relationships, or even other folks who are Asian. Look online for groups or forums — or perhaps start a group of your own to talk about these issues.
Believe me, it helps. I’ll never forget the outpouring of understanding I received after writing about my husband’s discrimination. All kinds of people stepped forward to tell me their stories — often privately by e-mail — and I started to realize that, hey, we’re not the only ones. Looking back, I can’t imagine making it through without their support. They reminded me to live courageously, and to continue to fight for what I believe in.
P.S.: You also might consider getting your hands on Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After by Diane Farr. See also my abbreviated review here.
What advice do you have for A? What do you think?