Wow, just wow. After a roller-coaster ride of an election day week (and a very long four years), I have been savoring this moment of learning that Joe Biden has been officially projected as the next president of the United States. And Kamala Harris will make history in the vice presidency as the first woman, the first woman of color, and the first child of immigrants to take office at that level.
But it feels a little sweeter knowing that, a little over 50 years since Loving v Virginia made interracial marriage legal across the US, we’re also going to see a woman who is part of an interracial couple and family in the office of the vice presidency. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, a black and South Asian woman, is married to Douglas Emhoff, a white man. It sends a powerful message to people across the country, if not the world, to have that kind of diversity reflected in the second-highest office in the US. I’d like to imagine that the Lovings are smiling down from heaven at this groundbreaking moment.
When it comes to dating, most people find their partners through a dating app or social media. But what was it like to find your life partner before the internet?
My parents have been in an interracial marriage for the past 30 years, and they have a truly unique love story that started with a chance encounter with a complete stranger.
Just to give you a little bit of background, my father is Caucasian and lived in the United States while my Chinese mother lived in Singapore. Despite geographical barriers and cultural differences, they made a miraculous connection in the 1980s and are still happily married today.
This video is a tribute to their love story and how they met. I hope their story can bring encouragement to all of us. Our YouTube channel is about the unique experiences as a (Chinese + American + Indian) multicultural family living in Singapore.
People often say that to understand the present, you have to look at the past. That’s why I started my AMWF History series, to examine interracial relationships between Asian men and non-Asian women in earlier times.
So today, I’m revisiting some rather telling quotes from posts I’ve featured for AMWF History, in an effort to raise awareness about how people have talked about Asian men in interracial relationships years ago.
As I compiled this post, I found it disconcerting (but not surprising) that a number of the opinions described below still endure, including in dark corners of the internet. A lot of people still believe interracial love is wrong.
This list of quotes is by no means comprehensive. So please, sound off in the comments with your examples too — let’s continue the conversation together.
The average American cannot understand how any human being, however inured by custom, can live in an average Chinatown. That white women should live there by deliberate choice seems to him monstrous, horrible.
She is but twenty-two years of age, remarkably beautiful and possessed of a voice that…would be a fortune. Yet three years ago, she met and loved a Chinaman.
It is also well known that not one Chinaman in a hundred comes to these shores without leaving behind a wife in China; so by the laws of China, the white wife is not a wife…
They have had six children, of whom five are living – bright, intelligent half breeds. And Mrs. Watson (her husband took that name when baptized) is still handsome and pleasant spoken.
Quong asked Margaret’s father, George Scarlett, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Even though he was a friend of Quong’s, George refused. Quong Tart and Margaret waited until the day after her twenty-first birthday, on 30 August 1886, and married anyway. Quong was then thirty-six. The appearance of grandchildren eventually reconciled Margaret’s parents to their daughter’s marriage.
Letticie wrote her brothers of her marriage, and received a terse letter back, in which her family disowned her. How could she marry a Chinese? It was disgusting, they wrote, and she was no longer their sister. She knew she would never see or hear from any of them ever again.
Aunt Sanora told me that on one particular occasion when they were going out to dine at a Chinese restaurant, a woman had taken the time to follow them to the entrance of the establishment. As she harassed the two of them for being together, Aunt Sanora took the woman’s hat and tossed it in the gutter. Aunt Sanora remembers this woman chasing the hat down the sewer drain exclaiming, “My $100 hat!” When the miscegenation laws were repealed, it took them three days to find a judge who would marry them. When they finally did, the judge remarked, “She looks old enough. If she wants to marry a chink, that’s her business.”
Lotte fell in love with Anton Maramis, a Manadonese petty officer, and married him with her family’s support, although she battled much antagonism from the broader Australian public she encountered. Many other young Australian women faced strong opposition from families and friends to the decisions they made to marry their Indonesian fiancés and return with them to their homes once Independence had been declared.
Married or not, they earned a reputation in ultra-conservative post-war England as being “loose women” and, in another archive, Charles Foley found that government officials dismissed those married to or cohabiting with a Chinese partner as “the prostitute class”.
What quotes have you come across about how people in the past thought of interracial relationships with Asian men?
Recently, I awoke to a powerful headline in the China Daily:
Determination is everything
The headline accompanied a group of photos underlining elite athletes’ perseverance in the world of sports. But I found myself so inspired by the phrase that I used a pair of scissors to cut it out of the paper and asked my husband to paste it on a door in our apartment.
Given the determination we’ve had to summon in the past several years to fight against a grave injustice (a fight that is still ongoing as I write this), it was inspiring and comforting to read these words, to be reminded of the power of sticking with it even when times are tough.
But as I pondered the phrase, I also recognized that it could apply to interracial relationships, including what I’ve experienced and observed among interracial couples here in China.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall what happened many years ago when Jun and I first began dating, and he returned home to share the news about his new girlfriend from America. His father said, “You can be friends with a foreign girl, but not date her.”
You can imagine, then, that when I once again encountered this response from Jun’s father, I thought our relationship was done. It was as if a parent merely uttering any rejection toward dating a foreign woman would automatically set in motion a cascade of events that inexorably led to breakup.
Except, in our case, it didn’t.
Jun just shrugged his shoulders, as if his father had merely offered an opinion on the latest news or one of their neighbors. It didn’t matter to Jun that his father disagreed with him about dating me. Jun was going to date me anyway.
He was determined to date me. So we stayed together, and eventually got married.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to connect with and meet many other women like myself, who were not Asian and happened to date or marry Asian men. And what I’ve found is that many of them have very similar stories, with their beloved’s parents voicing some kind of opposition to the relationship. But they persisted, they stayed together and everything turned out OK too.
I’m also reminded of the many stories I’ve read of other interracial couples, who had to navigate all sorts of landmines before they eventually made it to their wedding vows, and more than just a statement that it’s not good to date someone. Things like friends who reject your partner, racial epithets from strangers who happen to see you and, worst of all, family who decide to disown you. I’ve read stories of couples so deeply committed that being shunned and even disowned by their families didn’t stop them from moving forward in a life together.
Now I’m not saying that determination is the answer for everyone. Sometimes we’re faced with really tough choices when we date differently, and not everyone can afford to risk a rupture for life with their families.
At the same time, I’ve also learned that there’s a difference between families who would outright expel you for your choice to date outside cultural and/or racial borders, versus families who might not initially welcome it (but could warm up to your presence, over time). And in the latter, a strong dose of determination by a couple could decide whether the two of you end up together in a glossy wedding photo – or apart, writing out the painful history of what went wrong in a diary.
What do you think? Do you believe determination is everything, even in interracial relationships?
Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the struggles for interracial couples here in China. One topic that never seems to go out of style is this – the struggle with your foreign partner’s in-laws (or future in-laws).
When it comes to solving these problems, though, I’ve found that some things matter a LOT more than others.
I’ll never forget when my husband Jun first broke the news to his parents that we were dating. When he returned to our apartment, he gleefully announced the not-so-subtle response from his dad: “You can be friends with a foreign girls, but don’t date them.”
While I was on the verge of tears, certain his parents were going to break apart our perfect relationship, Jun’s smile remained. So did his steadfast belief that his dad’s opinion didn’t matter at all.
In the end, he was right.
We stayed together.
We got married.
We found our own happily ever after.
Sure, it didn’t hurt that Jun’s parents turned out to be more flexible – and nothing at all like that stereotype of the “strict Chinese parent”.
It might have helped that my husband was the youngest of three sons (instead of being an only child) so there was a lot less family pressure on his shoulders.
But I think there’s a more important reason why we were successful. Jun was willing to stand up for me and support me before his parents.
He was determined to stay with me, no matter what they said.
When you have a partner like this, it’s so much easier to manage any differences with the in-laws. You never have to worry about fending for yourself before the family. Instead, your partner has your back. You can relax, knowing you’re not alone.
It matters a lot.
If you’re struggling with the potential in-laws or other foreign family abroad, sometimes the best solutions come from your partner first. A partner who will stand up for you and your relationship.
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