This one is controversial—and writing this is a bold step that I feel compelled to do.
I understand what many people know. Yes, I have seen old white men holding hands with Asian girls–girls who seem like they should still be in school.
I’ve read about the incredulous reality of Asian mail-order brides, and I will be upfront about it: I felt mixtures of disdain and pity. Poverty among large rural families in the Philippines (and obviously also true for China, Thailand, etc.) has made a fairy-tale illusion out of marrying older white men. Alas, a poor family’s life dramatically changes! For some, it means having food at the table, affording a house, receiving money for the siblings’ education, being able to eat imported chocolates, or other things.
Recently, professor Robert Kelly’s Korean wife, who was seen in BBC in a seeming comedy of errors, was largely mistaken as the nanny. And with this other comedic error, people are reacting.
There are stories to know. But in most circumstances, people choose to do what is easiest to do: judge.
Knowingly or unknowingly, many tend to make a sweeping judgment of all Asian girls with white men. Woe to the subservient ill-educated Asian woman at the mercy of an older white man.
I will not pretend to know the dynamics of other people’s relationships. We’re unable to appreciate people when we’re quick to judge based on existing stereotypes.
Do they satisfy each other mentally and emotionally? Do they add meaning to each other’s lives? Do they share the same values and purpose? The reality is that, people will not really bother to find out.
This judgment has created a very negative stereotype that I, an Asian wife to a wonderful white husband, will quickly expound about.
How do I even begin? Let me share just a few things.
I always like dressing up and power dressing, but when I’m dressed down and in my flip-flops, I am conscious of the judgment from people who have neither spoken to me nor heard me speak.
Where I like my sexy outfits when the party merits it, I become circumspect and change my clothes before I can go out the door. Too sexy clothes just feed the stereotyped profile of a young Filipina with a white man.
In a group of new people and I’m beside my husband, I sometimes have to channel a more commanding presence just so impolite people will also look me levelly in the eye.
I was a Communications major in college and I spent years talking to different kinds of people professionally. Hence, I can’t help but find it seriously uncouth when people don’t address you, look you in the eye, and courteously include you in a discussion, even politely. These are things I always consciously do when dealing with clients, partners, and peers to show respect.
When this disregard happens, I the Asian wife choose an opportune moment to speak firmly or charmingly, and I’m vindicated when people look surprised.
The easiest way to manage this bias is to master the art of not caring. True. Most of the time, I go about my way without caring about what other people think. It is extremely liberating.
But I do get tired of actually needing to try harder and to always disprove a wrong impression. There are days when I’m too nonchalant to even try.
Not doing anything about it can also perpetuate the perception and treatment which both need to be corrected.
When I find myself with a group of people where I have to assert myself extra hard once more just because of the stereotype, I am exasperated and I devilishly imagine wearing my MBA, educational background, IQ score, achievements, network, talents, and knowledge on my forehead.
But of course, aside from it being impossible, being nice and polite as I was raised to be thankfully prevail.
This stereotype is an insult not just to me but to my husband. So I need to keep my cool and expertly allay false assumptions (when I discern that it’s worth it) mostly for his sake. They must know he didn’t marry a dimwit.
Let me just put it out there. This kind of stereotyping is casual racism.
Stereotypes inadvertently or knowingly exist. It takes an amazing kind of person to be able to look beyond them.
I am an Asian wife to my white husband. That makes this marriage an interracial marriage, and that’s exciting.
Katerina Deliovsky, a sociologist who has studied interracial couples for years, shared that “Asians often experience more implicit forms of racism hidden under the public veil of tolerance.”
I love Victoria Chan’s words who is in a 21st century interracial marriage and had written about the casual racism that is “hard to call out.”
“These days, it’s so taboo to call someone racist that most people get defensive when confronted over it and accuse the person complaining of hypersensitivity or lacking in humor.
And when you’re an Asian woman dating someone who possesses every privilege in the book (white, heterosexual, middle-class, male, and conventionally attractive), you can’t help but internalize two things: differences in how you and your partner are treated by people outside of the relationship, and differences in how you and your partner understand those experiences.”
Let me speak for the many Asian wives who have felt like I felt. Yes, I know. Some Asian wives seem timid, quiet and meek. Don’t fault them for that. For some Asian cultures, it is a form of good manners to be very quiet when other people speak. Some of them are overwhelmed and can’t catch the conversation, be polite enough to know better and at least sensitively look them in the eye (in my culture, that’s perfectly fine). Some of them don’t fully understand Western culture, sports and lingo, please don’t make them feel stupid for it.
I know a whole deal of intelligent, feisty, ambitious, compassionate and successful Asian wives who just happen to love and be loved by white men. And I hope this kind of Asian wife rises taller (despite our height) and gives a whole new definition to Asian wives.
I’m thankful for a sensitive husband who gives weight to my thoughts and opinions, and is an “inclusivist” most specially when other people are not. Even when my energy is running low to speak and be involved about topics unknown to me, he draws me in and proudly speaks of me, almost in the same manner that I speak of him.
Feeling biased about a person? Withhold your judgment. Start a conversation. And yes please, as with everyone else, be nice.