Interracial Romance in America

Interracial relationships seem to be scripts that are becoming more and more prominent in popular media portrayals of relationships. In reality, interracial relationships in America today still are not all that prominent.  We have seen progress in the social acceptance of these relationships through the past few decades, but have not fully moved into a place where they are considered normal and on the same evaluation field as same race relationships.  Kumiko Nemoto’s piece “Interracial Romance: The Logic of Acceptance and Domination” seeks to address the inter workings of interracial relationships in the U.S. today and why there is a large disconnect in what is actually going on versus what we perceive to be going on.

Nemoto’s addresses the fact that we are seeing a rise in the number of interracial dating relationships, but not necessarily marriages in the U.S. With more people dating across racial lines, it is perceived that racism and discrimination are becoming less prominent features of American society.  However, there are still societal discourses that exist that make some forms of interracial relationships less acceptable than others, and this preference is essentially a form of discrimination in itself.  Nemoto suggests that a slight increase in the number of interracial relationships may not be the result of a decline in racism, and aims to take a closer look at the ways that racism still plays out in the acceptance and abhorrence of certain relationships in society.  With a specific emphasis on relationships between Asian Americans and whites, Nemoto suggests that stereotypes of each of these groups influences their perceived desirability by other groups.  Nemoto’s argument is beneficial because of the ways that it challenges popular thoughts about the increase in interracial relationships. While numbers are slightly increasing, there are still underlying discriminatory scripts that play out among and towards interracial couples in America.  Nemoto specifically focuses on the interracial relationships between Asian American and white people, and the gender and racial ideologies that are at play in attitudes towards these particular relationships.  A limitation of this piece is perhaps that it focuses narrowly on relationships between Asians and whites, but at the same time, this area of research is largely underrepresented and essential to a well-rounded understanding of interracial relations in the U.S.

What really struck me in Nemoto’s analysis was the role that stereotypes play in the criticism and analysis of the ways that Asian American and white couples’ relationships work and are expected to work or not work.  Nemoto suggests that Asian women are expected to perform very subservient roles and hyperfeminize themselves. This also perpetuates the stereotype of white men as desiring to be portrayed as dominant beings who can set reasonable expectations for women, and essentially find ways to get what they want. People interviewed by Nemoto also suggested that white men are likely attracted to the petite physique of Asian women, and the ways in which they act out the role of “the model minority.” It is interesting to me that these physical characteristics and racial stereotypes play such an important role in the ways that interracial relationships are formed and acted out in the U.S.

In class, we have discussed the different sexualities of several different racial and ethnic groups.  We watched Hustle & Flow and discussed the ways in which black women are expected to subscribe to hypersexualized versions of self-expression. We have read C. J. Pascoe’s account “Guys are Just Homophobic” which tells us of the ways that white men are expected to object to homosexual expressions and overmasculinize their images.  We have seen the ways that Asian males are expected to be focused and driven, not embracing their sexual nature at all in Travis Kong’s “Sexualizing Asian Male Bodies.” Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez’s article about Mexican immigrants displays the value that virginity holds among certain societies.  Dalia Abdelhady and Hayeon Lee have taught us the ways in which Lebanese and Filipina woman are similarly and paradoxically criticized for being hypersexual beings but also repressing their sexualities in the wrong contexts.  What is neat about the exploration of interracial relationships is the ways that this discourse brings together all of the different intersections of gender, sexual identity, race, and the social constructions of ideologies that we have discussed throughout the entire semester.

In another course that I am in called Social Dynamics of the Family, we have explored similar topics of interracial relationships in the United States.  What’s interesting is that our professor is a black man married to a white woman, so he has firsthand experience and knowledge of what this actual lived lifestyle looks like.  He shares with us the challenges that he has faced himself in his marriage to a white woman.  He explained that when they first started dating, they both perceived it as completely normal and acceptable to date regardless of their racial differences.  The thing that made them begin to think about the actual implications that their relationship might have and the societal scrutiny they may become subject to was when they began to consider having children.  This sort of delves into another topic that we haven’t discussed much in this course, but makes me think about, is the ways that society creates expectations for performances and behaviors of biracial individuals.  Do we expect biracial people to behave differently sexually or behaviorally or express their identities more or less blatantly than other people?

What implications do our expectations for certain races and genders to perform in America have on the formation of relationships that cross racial lines? Does racism persist even with increasing numbers of interracial relationships?

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