Thoughts on “Outmarriage Is Cultural Failure”

My Google Alert on “Asian American Literature” brought me Dali Zheng’s blog article, “Outmarriage Is Cultural Failure”.

Even before I read it, I already had an idea of what I think the title might be leading to. And more than likely, it will not be what Zheng is writing about because it’s just a feeling growing up, as opposed to well thought-out researched hypothesis.

Growing up with nary a Chinese person in sight given the double-whammy of living in a small city and being sent to private school, I was more comfortable with non-Chinese people than I was with Chinese people. This was despite my mother’s Chinese language training and admonition to date and marry a Chinese boy. Chinese culture might be familiar to me through our household, but Chinese people were the “exotic”/rare species to me. I was tongue-tied around any Chinese person, wanting to talk about being Chinese because that was so fascinating to me and something we had in common. Awkward.

So it was far easier and comfortable for me to date someone, anyone, not Chinese. This, of course, devastated my mother who wondered how it could come to be, which is quite narrow-sighted. And when I dated someone who wasn’t Chinese, while in the throes of my prolonged identity crisis, I would punish him for not being Chinese–I never said I was fair. All the while, I felt like a huge failure of my upbringing, culture, and myself. Since I would have to wait longer, look further, and try harder to date a Chinese boy, dating non-Chinese was “the easy route”.

This is quite in contrast to my take-home message from the original Asian American literature where the female meets a Chinese man that makes her happy for a time and her family really happy but her destiny is to leave him because something is missing (or really wrong) and she finds her complete happiness with a Caucasian man. It’s as if it was easy for those girls who grew up in San Fransisco Chinatown with Chinese classmates and their mothers trying to set them up with their friends’ sons to date a Chinese male, and escaping expectations, going for what their heart wants (love) is the successful outcome.

Enough about my own take, I did find myself agreeing with Zheng’s article, and was quite pleased with his bold statements.

  • “Asian America is a non-community. It exists in its current form solely because of the economic incentives for skilled immigrant labour and the prestige of certain American universities.” I’ve noticed in the past how different the Chinese community is from the Vietnamese community that I’ve had the fortunate to be welcomed into. What gives? Is the Vietnamese community a truer community? In general, I also feel that while it is convenient and inclusive-sounding to say “Asian American” the real communities are along country lines–each country traditionally is so different and still passes that thinking down such that my generation (the second generation) doesn’t believe in mixing so much. The constant flow of immigration of Asians with country-allegiance will ensure a continued supply of second generation Americans who also favour their own country over “Asian.”
  • Zheng also performs a calculation of the fertility of Asian American women (slightly less than the national average of 2, replenishing) but points out that if half of Asian American women marry non-Asian and their mixed Asian children honestly don’t truly self-identify as Asian, then the non-mixed Asian American birth rate is under 1. Huh, a logical reason to contribute to replenishment when I’m currently loathed to have a child. I need more than logic.
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One thought on “Thoughts on “Outmarriage Is Cultural Failure”

  • February 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm
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    Very good perspective of a person who has culture conflict. Culture should be enjoyed, but not enslaving. I see the blend of Asian/Caucasian people as the creation of a superior race, because of their beauty, intelligence and lack of bias, with the cultural aspects providing entertainment and interests. I had the good fortune of being stationed in Hawaii for two years and visiting several countries around the pacific. I even lived on Taiwan, about 40 miles south of Kaohsiung, for several months. Hawaii was a melting-pot showcase, with every imaginable race mixed with Asian. Have you ever read the story of Chang and Eng Bunker, who settled in North Carolina in the 1830’s? They married two Caucasian sisters and had 21 children and 1800 descendants. Do you watch Survivor? One of the contestants is Christina Cha, a powerful lady who doesn’t mind using her tongue. Thanks for the good reading. I really enjoy your clarity of thought and honest expression.

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