Linda Ogutu, a Kenyan living in Scotland, shares what happened to her when she applied to be an au pair with a family in China. She writes, “I think I ‘knew’ that discrimination does take place, but now I KNOW based on experience.”
I applied for a job. A cultural exchange job as an au pair in China. I enjoy traveling and desire to explore and experience cultures which are different from my own. Going to China would have been one way to begin traveling around Asia as I had always wanted to do that.
I applied for the job being hopeful, but also reminding myself that nothing may come of it.
I received a response much sooner than I had expected. Oh how I was giddy with excitement!
We arranged a time to video-chat. We exchanged pleasantries and then we were off to official business. I was asked where I was from and following my response, the interviewer apologized profusely and said I unfortunately did not fit what they were looking for.
“Oh! I am so sorry but unfortunately we will not be able to take you. My partner does not like black people. I was going to try and convince them if you were from the West, but since you are not, they will not accept it at all. I am so sorry, really.”
Of course I understood and wished them all the best in their search.
I was disappointed the family did not want to take me as the husband of the lady that interviewed me probably had ingrained in his mind all the negative stereotypes of black people. I wasn’t angry at her as she knew I was black (we have to provide a profile photo on the au pair website). I also surprisingly wasn’t angry at her husband because I knew he just had the wrong idea of what black people are like.
I thought about their response and honestly was not surprised by it.
I have been prepared for experiences like these as my father always told my siblings and me that a day would come when we would unfortunately have to experience discrimination based on either our gender, the colour of our skin, or our religious beliefs. He had experienced his fair share whilst studying in the West when he was younger. He always reminded us that when people discriminate it is because they don’t know.
I think I ‘knew’ that discrimination does take place, but now I KNOW based on experience. Granted it wasn’t extreme as in most other cases. I suppose now it has made me more aware, but I don’t want to ever get to a point where I lash back or hate those that discriminate against me. I’d honestly rather fight hatred with love; MLK and Gandhi-style (haha).
I would still apply for another au pair job in China. I know not all Chinese still view black people in a negative light. Also, I could probably au pair for a foreign family living in China as well.
As for the Chinese family who interviewed me, I wonder if the husband’s mind will ever be opened. Someday. Perhaps.
Cross-cultural misunderstandings are a huge pitfall in dating abroad, including here in China.
Just imagine what it must have felt like for Ava Ming, the English blogger behind My Oriental Life, when she heard these words from her date for the evening, a Chinese guy she met in Shenzhen: “I really want to kiss you, Ava, but I’m scared that I might get AIDS because all Africans have AIDS.”
Read on to learn the whole story of how things fell apart between her and Larry.
Do you have a shocking tale of cross-cultural misunderstandings or other guest post you’d like to see featured here on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about becoming a guest poster for this blog. —–
I’ve often considered telling the story of my first Chinese date. But usually I’ve declined, thinking it was too personal, perhaps too upsetting and might also give the impression that I dislike Chinese men, which is really not the case at all.
But the event occurred a while ago now back in 2013. After reading about others who’ve braved their souls on Jocelyn Eikenburg’s fabulous blog, I’ve decided to share. Besides, who knows, maybe someone else could have or has had a similar experience?
I met Larry at the terminal subway station. There were very few commuters around. I was curious as to why he came so close, sitting right next to me on an empty train, leaving a small space between us.
I noticed his glances in my direction, wondering if he was trying to work up the courage to ask if he could practice his English with me. Pretty soon he introduced himself and asked me where I was from, which led to a conversation.
He told me that he was a professional who’d travelled to various European cities but never England. He was 37, unmarried and feeling the pressure from his parents to change his single status. I enjoyed our talk during the long ride but initially didn’t read anything into it. Around that time I seemed to be making a lot of new Chinese friends while on various subway rides. I guess I must have exuded an approachable air!
As we approached his stop he told me that he thought I was pretty. He couldn’t believe no other Chinese guy had made me his girlfriend. Then he asked for my number and if we could go to dinner.
Have to admit I was pretty surprised. Until then I’d been under the impression that Chinese guys would never be so forward due to a natural or cultural shyness. I said I wasn’t sure about a date but we could talk from time to time.
Over the next fortnight he sent regular messages via text and email usually beginning with ‘hello, my angel.’ Yes, Larry was a charmer but the messages did make me smile.
Eventually we set up a date and met on a hot and sticky Friday evening. By now I knew that I wasn’t romantically attracted to him, but I did like his personality and I was interested in meeting more people and expanding my circle of Chinese friends. I also assumed that he didn’t have intentions of getting serious with me either. His parents probably weren’t expecting him to marry a foreign girl.
The date was nothing special. The best word to describe it would probably be ‘nice,’ well up to a point anyway. We ate rice in a Japanese restaurant and then went for a walk in the park. He kept guiding me towards secluded places, which I thought was a bit strange. But then he’d comment on the sculpture, or lotus flower pond, or round leafy bush we’d stumbled upon.
I still wasn’t feeling any chemistry towards him. But he had a gentle humour and I thought perhaps we could be friends in the future.
Approaching 10pm I wanted to leave, having made plans to go dancing, but Larry wasn’t ready. He insisted on ‘just ten more minutes’ and took me to a bench by the side of the river, again another secluded place. When we sat down he made a confession.
“I really want to kiss you, Ava, but I’m scared that I might get AIDS because all Africans have AIDS.”
I was literally struck dumb at his ignorance. Then I became so angry I actually felt tears welling up. Angry tears have a whole different feeling to ones of sadness or joy.
We’d already discussed my family history, him being impressed that my parents were from Jamaica and that I was born in England. But regardless of place of birth, how could he be so naive? In addition, was there no filter in his brain to tell him exactly when to shut-up?
I told him that AIDS didn’t originate from Africa, but was initially a disease among gay white men in New York. I pointed out that he should really think before he speaks and that he shouldn’t believe so strongly in stereotypes. On top of this, why on earth had he asked me out if he’d thought I was ‘unclean?’
Seeing my distress he insisted that I’d misunderstood when we both knew that I hadn’t. To make matters worse, he then pulled me close and tried to kiss me! Saying; “look, see, I know you don’t really have AIDS!”
I wanted to storm off in a huff, but it’s kind of difficult when you don’t know where you are, so we caught the bus back together. He begged me not to tell anyone because he didn’t want to lose face. I made no such promise. If he’d just ended the date at 10pm before his confession maybe we would have become friends, although then I would never have known what he was really thinking.
For a long time I dismissed the idea of dating another Chinese guy. If this was the common school of thought then what would be the point?
A short while later I discussed his theory with my Chinese friends, many of whom also believed that AIDS originated in Africa, but none of whom believed that all Africans have it.
As for Larry, he called and emailed several times to apologise for upsetting me. I accepted his apology but declined his offers to go for a drink. Making someone cry on a first date, even if they were tears of frustration, is really not an auspicious beginning!
As I mentioned this was a while ago and I have since relaxed my guard, becoming more open to Chinese men who just want to talk. But as for dating? Not sure. For that I think I’ll need a little more time.
I’m Ava Ming, born in England to Jamaican parents and currently living in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China where I write and teach English. —–
For some people, it’s hard to believe that I’m a feminist and happen to have a Chinese husband. As if the two could never possibly go together.
But in my life, they fit perfectly. And why not? My husband, who was born and raised in rural Hangzhou, is just as much of a feminist as I am. (Yeah, I know that’s probably something else you’d never imagine – but it’s true.)
I also feel that being a feminist, being someone who cares about social justice and women’s rights, has also made me more sensitive to the challenges Asian men face in the dating world. I’ve never appreciated when women are treated inappropriately or stereotyped as “b****es” simply because we’re standing up for ourselves. And I don’t appreciate the unflattering stereotypes that have short-changed Asian men in the dating world.
When you think about it like this, empowering women and Asian men (and, for that matter, any other oppressed group of people) isn’t mutually exclusive at all. Why can’t we support each other?
Cut to: the rise of celebrity chef and memoirist Eddie Huang, whose swagger, wit, and taste for controversy has made him one of Asian America’s most visible figures. The unofficial leader and visionary of the “movement of big dick Asians,” Huang’s persona has resonated with Asian Americans tired of being an “invisible” minority, and especially with Asian American men seeking to reclaim and reassert their own masculinity. But when reclaimed masculinity comes in such normative, ultra-hetero packaging, are we doing more harm than help?
While answering a question about why he relates to hip hop and rap music, Huang says: “I feel like Asian men have been emasculated so much in America that we’re basically treated like Black women.” (No joke, direct quote!)
Which lead to a whole Twitter conversation between Eddie Huang and a number of prominent Black feminists (where he ended up calling them “bums”). Yes, “bums”.
The racial emasculation of Asian men in the American imagination is real, it is pervasive, and it is historically-rooted (dating back at least to the 19th century when Chinese migrant men took on “feminized” labor roles in the laundry industry). From pop culture to playground taunts, I doubt that any Asian American man can fully escape the psychological implications of this socialization in undesirability. For me, it remains a personal trope that requires constant unlearning, lest creeping doubts begin to resurface to cloud the way I see myself and my role in romantic and sexual relationships. I speak from personal experience when I say that it has real material and psychological impacts.
…Huang’s response is indicative of the fact that his philosophy of manhood is grounded in sexism, and leverages anti-blackness as a tool for subverting anti-Asian stereotypes.
Why should uplifting Asian men come at the expense of others – women, and especially, women of color? That in order to compensate for the relentless mockery and degrading stereotypes about Asian men as being dickless, sexless and the like, women (and particularly, women of color) should be oppressed in turn?
It’s chilling to think that someone actually decided this was a good idea.
In my world, masculinity doesn’t come from swinging your privates around until you hit someone (or a group of someones) or how many women you hook up with this weekend. And for that matter, being a real man is more than just about sex or sexuality. I love this definition that Jenn Fang of Reappropriate.co wrote about in this article:
We must work to redefine our community’s entire concept of masculinity so that it reflects important character traits – self-assurance, honour, integrity, intelligence and respect; traits that I believe many Asian American men already possess in spades; traits that I believe truly define manhood.
Amen to that.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Sound off in the comments!
Every week, the entertainment mags churn out list after list of swoon-worthy celebrity and Hollywood couples. But these couples are almost always white…and I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I’ve seen a single couple of Asian men and non-Asian women on their lists.
If my Pinterest board with real-life couples of Chinese men and Western women has taught me anything, it’s that the community of Asian men and non-Asian women in love is bigger than I ever expected — with plenty of beautiful faces. So it’s no surprise that our community includes some stunning celebrities and their equally stunning partners. Don’t they deserve a little love for once?
Move over, Brangelina! Here are six dazzling couples that could turn heads on the red carpet, while showing the world how lovely it is when Asian men and non-Asian women get together.
Sandra Denton and Tom Lo
Sandra first rocked our world as “Pepa” from the rap group Salt-N-Pepa, and now she has rocked the interracial dating world by choosing to date Tom Lo (as part of her 2010 reality show Let’s Talk About Pep). Was it romance or just reality TV? Are they still a thing? I have no idea. But they sure make one handsome Blasian couple, don’t they?
Diane Farr and Seung Yong Chung
Who says that Asian men can’t land babelicious former MTV hosts? Seung Yong Chung (who is tall and handsome himself) snagged the lovely actress Diane Farr, best known for her roles on Numb3rs and Rescue Me (as well as a stint hosting MTV’s Loveline). Their relationship and marriage became the heart of Diane’s outstanding memoir on interracial dating, Kissing Outside the Lines.
Grant Imahara and Jennifer Newman
You know Grant from Mythbusters. Even if he’s the geekiest guy on this list (he’s one of the official operators for Star Wars’ R2-D2 and helped engineer the Energizer Bunny), he looks awesome in a tux and would make my shortlist of hottest electrical engineers any day. Put him together with his lovely blonde girlfriend Jennifer Newman (a self-proclaimed “robot girl”) and you have a couple that could turn heads almost anywhere.
Will Yun Lee and Jennifer Birmingham
Actor Will Yun Lee (best known for his TV roles in Witchblade and Bionic Woman and on-screen roles for Die Another Day, Elektra and The Wolverine) was named one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive in 2007. His wife Jennifer Birmingham, a Hollywood actress as well, looks like a natural on the red carpet. Together, they make one stunning AMWF (Asian Male, White Female) couple. If the Academy handed out Oscars for most gorgeous couple in the business, I’m sure these two could nab a nomination!
Julia Stegner and Steven Pan
Could this gorgeous German supermodel and her handsome boyfriend Steven (a fashion photographer) make interracial dating between Asian men/non-Asian women a little more “en vogue”? They’ve already landed in a Vogue spread and could easily rock the magazine’s cover. The camera clearly loves them both!
I’m continuing the celebration of International Women’s Day with a post saluting outstanding women with blogs on AMXF (Asian Male, Non-Asian Female) relationships. Woo-hoo!
As you know, I just updated my list of blogs by Western women who love Chinese men — and it’s well over 50. It’s an inclusive list, but keeping up with all of these fabulous ladies is no small task. I spent nearly a day on that post. Yes, an entire day! Still, I’m happy to do it because the women in this community rock. We have a unique perspective on life — whether that’s life in Asia, our home countries, or elsewhere in the world — and that deserves a shout-out once a year!
But I’ve come to realize we’re not the only ones with a huge community. You should have seen the many blogs I discovered just by white gals in Japan blogging about their mixed-race kids and families! And I realized that if I were to simultaneously keep up with all of the communities in Japan, Korea, India and beyond…well, my head was spinning at the thought.
So here’s the deal — to keep things simple here, I’m highlighting the major AMXF blogs in the community authored by women in this post. They’ve attracted a decent following, fill an important niche, or are written by prominent women (including authors). Either way, chances are you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
That said, if you know about another AMXF blog, by all means please let me know! While it’s impossible for me to spread the love in this post to every single other AMXF blog out there, I’m always happy to give them a link back.
And if I’ve missed a blog that deserves a spot in this post, share it with me in the comments and tell me why I ought to feature it.
Black women Asian men. The ultimate blog for the AMBW (Asian men/Black women) community run in part by a Black woman in a relationship with an Asian guy. It’s regularly updated and loaded with gorgeous photos of AMBW couples as well as their love stories. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the blog offers links to AMBW meetup groups around the US, as well as lists of AMBW books, movies and music videos.
English Wife, Indian Life. Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions in our lives that change everything — like how Lauren was on a vegetarian forum and just happened to respond to someone messaging her (something she never usually would do). That conversation introduced her to her future husband. Last year, she officially left her pharmacy job in England to move to India, where the couple married and now live happily ever after — while Lauren, of course, grapples with this foreign country and culture. It’s fun to read Lauren’s posts because they’re so immediate, filled with the excitement and frustration that comes from such a huge life change. Best of luck to this lovely couple!
The Good Shufu. Once upon a time, Tracy Slater (a self-described highly independent feminist) had the academic career of her dreams, teaching writing at a Boston-area university and living in the city she adored. But when she fell in love with a Japanese man, all of a sudden she began contemplating a life together with him in Japan, which meant letting go of her career and the life she worked so hard to build for herself in Boston. Once moving to Osaka, she became an illiterate housewife trying to build the very family she never imagined she wanted. It’s an incredible transformation — and not surprisingly, she’s turned her story into the forthcoming memoir titled The Good Shufu (to be published in 2015). Tracy is such a gifted writer and I eagerly await what is sure to be one standout book.
My Korean Husband. Nic from Australia is married to Mr. Gwon and she has grown a huge following through her funny comics, videos and other posts about everything from their marriage (such as this how we met video) to life in Korea and even the odd K-pop-related conversation. It’s a delight to visit and read/watch, so it’s no wonder this is easily the most popular (and most entertaining) blog on this list. Nic has a comic book in the works about how she and Mr. Gwon met and more, so stay tuned for that!
Linda Leaming. During her travels through South Asia in the 1990s, Linda discovered the Himalayan wonderland of Bhutan — a country that, in her words, “would rather have Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product” — and that one trip turned into a lifelong love affair on many levels. She met and married a Buddhist artist there and they adopted a girl as well, but most importantly she found the happiness that comes from following your own heart. You can read all about it in her fun memoir Married to Bhutan. And if you loved that book, don’t miss her forthcoming A Field Guide To Happiness: Twenty-Two Things I Learned in Bhutan.
…I feel compelled to mention how disappointed I am that “foreign” girls are always white girls…. I live in China, and I’m quite attracted to Chinese guys, but my dark skin and less than European features seems to mean that I’m destined to be forever alone. It’s quite sad that no one’s aware of this growing problem, the plight of the forever forsaken non-white girl…. There are many of us out here, and every once in a while, we’d like some love, too.
After reading these words, I immediately thought of Chenyin Pan. He and I struck up a conversation this past summer at the Shanghai reading for Rachel DeWoskin’s latest book, and he happened to mention he once dated some non-white women as a university student in the US. In previous e-mails, he even mentioned the striking words of a Korean friend (who wrote them with respect to dating non-white women): “The world is getting smaller and we should try new things.”
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