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Guest Post – Ignoring racism in the name of love – multiracial marrige

Today’s guest post comes from Jo. She writes the blog Life Behind the Wall about life as an African-American woman in China.

There have been several controversial articles written on the internet regarding multicultural, multiracial relationships concerning Chinese men; however, being a Black American woman married to a Chinese man and living in China, brings a whole new level of chaos to the multicultural mix.

The recent internet chatter has been about African women marrying Chinese men and how they are being received in China by the locals.The negative feedback has caused a lot of people from Western countries to be shocked and appalled at the ignorant and discriminatory comments that were posted all over the website (here is a post from Chinasmack that translated many of these comments scroll down). These comments ranged from disapproval, insults to downright hatred.Even I was a little uncomfortable reading some of the remarks. However, I am here to give a little explanation to why the locals would be in such an uproar regarding this marriage mix.

China, being a country that considers marriage a financial and/or social status contract; it is very clear to me why they would find marrying someone from a poorer country unacceptable; combined with the fact that their skin color and body types are not normal, by traditional Chinese standards. The locals just cannot understand why someone would want to marry someone they consider beneath them.

From my experiences, after meeting and marrying my husband two years ago, I have come to realize that there are too many Chinese people who are concerned with details of my mixed culture/ race marriage. I was told early on that my marriage just cannot work, just not possible, due to the fact that there were too many cultural differences and there was an unusually strange concern for what food we would eat.

Walking down the street together would literally make traffic stop and I saw people in total shock when we actually held hands; which has caused us to keep the public display to a minimum. I can even remember a time when my husband gave me a quick kiss goodbye in front of our apartment complex and I looked up to see an entire over-crowded city bus full of people staring at us with their mouths open, horrified. If I have had these situations occur when I have honey-colored skin with a slight Asian look; you could imagine what the reaction would be to those women that are much darker coming from Africa.

My husband has told me several times that a co-worker, friend or family member has asked him what he got out of the marriage to me; and my husband replies confused “a wife.” This just tells you that the concept of marrying for love is just an afterthought or just not even considered.  Due to the obsession with white skin in China, Caucasians are more acceptable for potential wives and will even lift someone to a higher level of status.I have seen people fall all over themselves just to get a glance at someone with blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin.

Many people ask me if it is difficult being married to a person of a different culture; and I say it is just as difficult as being married to someone of your own culture. You both have to make compromises and be tolerant and accepting, just like in any relationship. For the most part, I have found that it is other people who have trouble with our marriage, we are fine with it. Would it be easier to just move back to America and live? Maybe, but we are here and my husband’s family is here and we are not quite ready to make that move back to the states, yet.

If I were to give some advice to others about beginning in multicultural or multiracial relationship I would say this: Make sure to support each other and respect each other’s differences. Make comprises that work for your individual situation and always remember that what other people think about you, is just not your business.

Read more from Jo at www.lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com


28 Comments

  1. Chopstik says:

    Jo,

    Thanks for your commentary and insight on this subject. I am sure you know that you are likely to encounter similar criticisms in the US, if not so overt.

    I remember how my own relationship with my better half was received (noted in this blog previously) and I don’t want to imagine how yours must be perceived. But you have the right attitude. What other people think is their problem, not yours (and you shouldn’t make it yours). Perhaps, as China becomes more integrated with the world and the xenophobic nationalism that the current government has laid into the Chinese psyche wears away, people will become more accepting of your relationship. Or, at the very least, less obvious in their negative stereotypes.

    Out of curiosity, I did have one other question for you. You intimated that part of the perceived disapproval comes from the belief of different social stations. Would this be similar to Indian relations where people are expected to marry within their own social castes? This hasn’t seemed to be very prevalent in my experience within China but perhaps I’ve just missed it. Your thoughts?

    Thanks.

    • Actually .. it is similar to the Indian culture in India… in traditional thinking of the elders it is the same.. now they have kind of changed it to include financial status as well… most of it is based on “face” and what is accepted by others. I live in a small city… and I have learned that their thinking hasnt changed much from their grandparents… some families wont even accept people from other provinces. I have been told by people outside Zhejiang … that other provinces are a little better regarding this. thanks for the comment.

  2. Sara says:

    Being a white girl dating a Chinese guy I and we get a lot of attention, but it seems to be nothing compared what the two of you get. It’s sad that because what others think and how they behave you too feel the need “to keep the public display to a minimum”. That’s the same for my boyfriend. I’m used to the attention because they stare me no matter what, but it’s something my boyfriend isn’t used to.

    Chinese people always assume we are classmates or one of us is translating for the another. They are always surprised to hear that we are actually a couple. I guess the same is for you too?

    Reading about your experiences in this post and on your blog have widened my eyes a lot. Thank you Jo!

  3. I and other female foreigners have… figured out that women get stared out and pointed at more than the foreign men….. but yes… sometimes… it gets pretty bad… but .. i have the support of my husband.. and the few good friends i have made here… and that helps a lot. I wish you the best of luck with your boyfriend… and thank you for reading my blog…

  4. Yaxue C. says:

    Jo, thank you for your post. Being a Chinese, I can imagine what you face day in and day out. I agree with Chopstik: You have the right attitude. I also want to add that, by having that attitude, you are subtly changing people–I hope.

    I just read another post on your blog where you said, “Everyday I wake up and kiss Michael good morning and then go to take my shower… I am always taking the time to mentally prepare myself for … Well, actually for China.” Nothing capitures better than this little sentence what it takes for you to have that attitude.

    I also live in an interracial marriage: My husband family came from Brazil, his dad is a German descendant, his mom grew up on a farm on the amazon, he is 1/8 of amazon indian who, some scentists argue, came from Asia at the end of the last Ice Age, between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago, while I sometimes wonder whether I have distant–as distant as a thousand years ago–ancesters who were “barbarians” from the Minor Asia because my hair is a bit reddish….

    So much for the very concept of “race”. Take care.

    • thank you so much … and yes… i feel … i am changing the views of some people…. i know you cant change a whole country… but at least i am doing my bit… to try to show them…. that just because it isnt the normal .. doesnt mean it cant be done. I want to say .. I do owe a lot to my husband… he is very supportive… and although it is hard for me… It is difficult for him too…. he has to deal with the negativity…of others… but his attitude of living his life the way he wants … dispite the adversity… helps me to be stronger..

    • Khary Illah says:

      Added to the mix was the travels of Zheng He, who was the first East Asian explorer to reach the Americas (before Columbus) and left a few settlers peppered about as well!

  5. FrankL says:

    I hope you can find support in friends and perhaps even some family members. I’m a Canadian born Chinese living in Canada married to a Caucasian woman. We had some negative reactions from my parents in the past, but nothing even close to your situation! If it were me, I think eventually, the negativity would wear me down. I hope that one by one, some individuals will start to see the good in the relationship and come to accept it. I admire your resolve and attitude and hope things go well for you and your husband.

    • @frank.. i was very lucky.. that his parents accepted me… I think it was the fact that they are not wealthy people… so they looked at it as an improvement to their situation… i am thinking if they had been rich… we wouldnt have had trouble. His grandparents .. not so much… but he tells me they are old and it doesnt matter. We do have a small supportive group of friends here in China.. and it helps that I am a Teacher.. and American… evidently that makes a difference in China… thank you for your support…. and i wish you also the best of luck.

  6. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    Bigotry exists in every community world wide. You and your husband are a very courageous couple. I commend your attitude and wish you well.

  7. M. says:

    I’m not sure white women are considered “good” wives. More people than I can count have told me to my face that we’re too kaifang (i.e., slutty) to be worth marrying. (And in my case, too fat.) However, because we’re seen as slutty slut sluts, men are willing to have one-night stands with us.

    We’re really only high-status as er nai (mistresses). Frankly, that’s not a game my friends or I play…which is why we don’t date in China. There’s no point in spending so much energy trying to find the one or two exceptions to the rule.

    • White women are considered much better wives than Black women trust me…. and if you ask a Chinese man if he would rather marry a White woman or Black woman… white women win hands down…. and most Asian women try to be as white as possible. My question to you is this… while you live in China… will you just not date? or only date foreign men? From my expriences .. most western men that come to China prefer to date Asian girls.

      • M. says:

        I think you’re confusing two senses of “better.” Better usually means “more good”, but it can also mean “less bad.” I think White women are seen as “less bad” than Black women. We’re both still in negative numbers, though.

        Moreover, I’m not sure they view the debate about whiteness in advertising the way we do. Sure, certain white features on an otherwise Asian face is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean being white is the ideal. It just means plastic surgery is the ideal. For example, I’ve heard black kids in America say they wished they were white to be beautiful, but I’ve never heard a Chinese person say that. I have, however, heard them say they wished they had enough money to get plastic surgery to be prettier.

        FWIW, I was open to dating anyone while I was there, but I didn’t go on a single date. I quit my job in China and am now unemployed in the U.S. I’d rather be unemployed and eventually find love than be employed in a country where I have no hope for a meaningful life.

        I’m told it’s a big problem in retention of female employees in MNCs. A consulting firm my company hired to explain why it couldn’t keep Western women managers in its Chinese offices said it’s one of their biggest jobs in the Asian market. Most of us get the hell out as fast as we can.

  8. I have read every single comment in the ChinaSmack link and, frankly, I’m not surprised or shocked at those comments. This is how the Chinese see things. I mean, look, the mainland Chinese unadmitted contempt for anything foreign other than foreign consumable objects and goods is quite mind-boggling anyway. I’m in Hong Kong, and even Hong Kong Chinese get the ole stink eye from mainlanders. But I have to say an African-American like yourself (plus your husband) marrying and living in China (as opposed to any other place) takes some real guts.

    • yeah.. i have been told ..many times over that we are crazy…. but.. I have never been one to have someone else.. run me away from someplace… i want to be… and it wont start now… I just keep telling myself. that they just dont know…. not knowledgeable.. and I try to not let it get to me. I also have a small circle of friends…. chinese and foreign that are on my side… so that helps a lot.

  9. ATLSis says:

    It took a former professor/coach and good friend to help me grasp what love really is. What you and your husband share and deal with in China is definitely love. I admit, when they taught me about the meaning of it, I said I wanted no part of it thinking that it was tiresome hard work, it was a scary word. I wanted the easy way out.

    What I learned about love is that it is patient,kind, blind and unfortunately,longsuffering. What you and your husband is dealing with in China is nuts,but I’m glad that you guys aren’t surrendering to your critics. I’m been told that there is no such thing as an “easy” marriage, whether it’s a monoracial or interracial marriage. Your husband’s associates questioned him about his purpose in being with you and I loved his response. You can be the most powerful person on the face of this planet, and have all of the riches in the world,but it is , to me, meaningless if there is no love and communication in it.Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having material things if you are putting it in the right place,but it is a problem when that is all you base a person on. I respect people’s cultures, whether it’s Chinese or someone else’s cultures and having a West African boyfriend, I understand the some of the cultural expectations of it,but no matter how much materialism and/or race/culture play a role in it, this is the part of the thinking I will always struggle with.

    Though I didn’t hook up with my ex for material reasons and/or prestige( he was in medical school trying to become a surgeon). I was in this position and man..I was miserable being with him. I couldn’t wait to get out of that relationship!Throughout the it he seemed obsessed with making money. He ate money..breathed money..slept dreaming of money… arrghh! It was getting next to me. He wasn’t getting who I was.Don’t get me wrong, I support any man who want to do well for himself and/or his family,but he didn’t know me as well as much as he thought he did. What I wanted from him the most was for him to understand me ..something he didn’t do.

    If a got into another relationship or marriage, I certainly hope that he..or better yet..the both of us …would know how to love each other.I look at couples who have been in the marriages for years. If their marriage is good, I’m quite sure that it didn’t last because of their college degrees in the race and/or skin color. Interracial or homogeneous ,I hope that if I desire another relationship ,the next man I get sees me and not base it on status.

  10. Anonymous says:

    May Allah(swt) continue to bless you two with courage and perseverance, Jo. God intended for people to respect and love one another, and nothing can stop His master plan. You two(and all interracial couples) represent something: Hope! As they say, it’s darkest before the dawn, and the rays of light are just beginning to break the surface of hate.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ATLsis….Thanks so much…. i feel our love has helped a lot to deal with the issues in China. I cant say it gets better each day .. but i think we just get stronger. @ Anonymous… thanks you so much and I hope others can be inspired to follow their heart…. like us… no matter what others throw at you.

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  12. john says:

    I am an English man who is married to a wonderful Chinese woman, At the beginning of our relationship when we walked together my wife would be a little upset about the stares that SHE would receive walking with a Westerner, Myself was not bothered about this fact until one Chinese gentleman asked me if she was a prostitute as there would be no other reason for her to be with a western man, I now am aware of what is in the minds of some of these people and will not be intimidated by any of these narrow minded people and will happily hold my wife in public and give her the occasional kiss too which she is still quite shy about when there are people around.
    My wife’s family were dead against the multicultural marriage for many months but finally gave in to their daughters desire to be with me, The family are from a small town and there has never been anyone else in this town to marry a westerner before so she is now quite a noticed as for breaking away from the traditional ways, My new family now always welcome me with open arms and often ask my wife when i am next to return to China and they insist on me staying in the family home and walking me around the town to show off to their friends, I find that it is the older generation (40-70) years old that have the problem with interracial marriages, They can not understand why a Chinese woman would want to marry a western man, There are many differences in our culture and daily ways and i am learning in leaps and bounds, I would give my life for my wonderful wife and would not give her up for the world.

    • Good for you…. my husband also .. comes from a small town.. so he is the local star also…. and I often get paraded around by the inlaws…. they often think he is a very “strong” man to be able to be married to a foreigner… and that foreigner be Black American…I am so happy your new family was able to look past all the crazy thinking they have over here.. i wish you both the best…..

  13. john says:

    Thank you for your reply, i must say that when i was a child in England racism was an every day occurrence and i thought nothing of the fact, after emigrating to Australia as an 11 year old i realised how it felt to be victimised and bullied, Within the same year i woke up to myself and quickly knew that we are all the same race , THE HUMAN RACE, My wife is the most , beautiful , caring, passionate, wonderful, sensitive , adoring, thoughtful person that i have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Skin colour, our language, culture, or up-bring means nothing, It is what’s on the inside that counts.
    My children have daily contact with my wife through QQ international and have no problem with me having a Chinese wife, My children have many friends from different back grounds and different races and i am a happy father to have them not have a problem with skin colour, Their friends are from all different walks of life but are most welcome in our home always..

    • Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

      I am also British and emigrated to New Zealand in 1970 where I experienced racism for the first time. We returned to UK in 1974 and I am pleased to report that there are laws against racism in Britain now. Pity the same can’t be said for China where the myth of racial harmony is perpetuated against a background of racism.

      • Tweet @BlackLoveGuru says:

        Living in Britain in a recession where ethnic minority employment is increasing at triple the rate of white unemployment, with the re-emergence of far right groups, with the British National Party having had representatives elected to the European Parliament and having members on local councils in London and the North of England, the fact that there are laws against discrimination to deter discrimination in some limited circumstances does not make Britain discrimination free. You need to read Angry People smiling by Peter Ashley, a novel that will change the way you think about bigotry. Based on factual cases and tells it like it is. Discrimination is a problem in all major economies and should not be excused. Ever.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Not necessarily dissaproval, but curiosity.

  15. […] Guest Post – Ignoring racism in the name of love – multiracial marrige (seeingredinchina.com) […]

  16. maame says:

    china is an openly racist country. honestly i am tired of being black and being discriminted against and seen as something bad. why do whites and now chinese people treat us this way.

    • I use to aske myself that all the time too… Maame…. I have come to the conclusion that is is because they are afraid. Most people are afraid of what they dont know or dont understand. In China they are afraid of everything… from the government, to being made fun of, or being robbed… the little guys are afraid of everything you can possibly think of …. so it is a given that they would be afraid of us too. I get tired of it… just as much as you do.. but… I tell myself.. you cant change what other people think… but you can change how you react to it…. and I always follow a quote that I heard from ..Rupaul…(you know the drag queen) she said…. what other people say or think about me… is not my business. It is so true… and I follow that everyday of my life.

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